Medical marijuana: Jessica Corry on what happened to all those promised lawsuits

In early May, even before Governor Bill Ritter signed HB 1284, a bill to regulate the medical marijuana industry, attorney Jessica Corry announced that lawsuits would target the measure -- and the next month, she said a couple of MMJ suits were in the works. Six weeks later, is litigation imminent? In a word, says Corry, "No."

One reason for the delay is the rush of clients trying to complete MMJ license applications by the August 1 deadline. Corry and her partners are absolutely swamped right now.

But that doesn't mean the Corry crew has nothing cooking.

"While we haven't filed specifically against 1284 yet, we do have several cases in varying stages in court currently," she notes. Moreover, these "may impact or strike down 1284's most concerning provisions."

Chief among ongoing cases is one in Centennial involving CannaMart, a dispensary that was shut down last year even though it had a valid business license. Although the lawsuit that followed was decided in CannaMart's favor in its first test, there's more court action to come. "The trial is set for March," Corry points out, "but we might see action earlier depending on the city's actions."

Residency rules could also be challenged. As Corry points out, the Department of Revenue, which is writing the regulations needed to put the law in motion, will host "a public hearing at 10 a.m. this next Monday to discuss the residency rules. The department has already issued a draft emergency rule concerning definitions. We plan to submit comments before hand and will be there, if at all possible, to speak.

"When we spoke in June, we didn't yet know that the DOR and Matt Cook," the staffer overseeing the MMJ effort, "would be so willing to talk with us," she goes on. "We came into the process with a bad taste in our mouth after the legislative session, and we continue to be impressed with Cook's willingness to include us in the process. We will continue to be involved to whatever degree possible to shape the rule-making process, and continue to hope that we can avoid at least some litigation as a result."

That said, Corry still expects that attorneys will ultimately challenge the local-ban provision, which allows municipalities to prohibit MMJ businesses either via action by a local council or board, or through a community vote. She expects "multiple cases" to emerge, and given that a slew of communities, including Broomfield and Aurora, have either taken such steps or moved in that direction, there'll be plenty of potential litigation targets.

However, top priority is overturning the five-patient limit for caregivers. According to Corry, "this new rule could have devastating impact on patients and caregivers in rural Colorado.

"In the December hearing in Centennial, the city said, 'People can just go to Denver'" to get medical marijuana in the event of a local ban, she recalls. "That's a questionable legal argument as to whether or not you can deny people constitutional rights simply because those rights are protected somewhere else. But in rural Colorado, we could see hundreds of miles where patients wouldn't have access to a caregiver. And that's very concerning for us."

Now Corry and company just have to find the right plaintiffs -- and the time -- to bring these and other matters before a judge.

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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