Marijuana

Marijuana publications sue over treat-pot-magazines-like-porn law

After we reported about an element of the main marijuana bill that treated pot magazines like porn, a spokesman for High Times announced an intent to sue if the section wasn't cut. Shortly thereafter, attorney David Lane said a suit would be forthcoming if the edict became law.

Lane wasn't bluffing. Mere days after Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill containing the passage, he filed suit on behalf of High Times and two other mags. Details, the documents and more below.

As we've reported, the law originally known as House Bill 13-1317 calls for "a requirement that magazines whose primary focus is marijuana or marijuana businesses are only sold in retail marijuana stores or behind the counter in establishments where persons under twenty-one years of age are present."

In other words, a convenience store wanting to stock weed-oriented publications won't be able to do so in standard racks easily accessible to customers. Rather, issues will be next to porn mags, with their covers presumably shielded to protect children -- and customers will have to ask clerks to grab copies for them.

Marijuana lawyer Warren Edson was left slack-jawed by this requirement. Proponents of Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of cannabis, "said to regulate marijuana like alcohol," he told us, "but apparently, our legislature wants to regulate it like porn.

"How many beer brewing and distilling magazines are in the racks at the Tattered Cover -- yet they're going to make these magazines go behind the counter? Really?" In Edson's view, this move "could be devastating for both the industry as a whole and consumers in terms of cutting back on information and ways to see new products -- because a lot of people aren't going to want the icky feeling of having to go into a 7-Eleven and ask, 'Can I see the magazine behind the brown paper bag?'"

To get High Times' take, we reached out to Dan Skye, the magazine's editorial director. Responding via e-mail, Skye shared the reaction from publication attorney David Holland: "He called the magazine restriction 'patently unconstitutional' and said there's no legal precedent for treating pictures of a drug as obscene.

"Holland said the magazine would likely sue if the provision becomes law," Skye added.

One more Holland quote offered by Skye: "It is a content-based restriction that violates freedom of speech."

Attorney Lane wholeheartedly agrees, and on the evening of May 8, immediately after HB 13-1317's passage by the state legislature, he sent an e-mail to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers saying so. After quoting the aforementioned passage from the legislation, Lane wrote, "My own personal belief is that this is a blatant First Amendment violation. It has apparently passed muster with the House and Senate and the governor will be signing it shortly. Please inform Governor Hickenlooper that if this is signed into law, he can expect a First Amendment law suit filed promptly."

And prompt it was.

Continue for more about the lawsuit, including original documents and more.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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