Rob Corry: Denver City Council's medical marijuana regulations will "harm people and cause human suffering"

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Yesterday, the Denver City Council passed rules intended to regulate the burgeoning medical marijuana industry -- and most members of the overflow crowd weren't happy with what went down.

That includes Rob Corry, an attorney and medical marijuana advocate. In a previous blog, Corry made it clear he would consider filing a lawsuit against Denver if the ordinance passed without significant change -- which it did. This morning, he reemphasizes that statement.

"If we can assemble an appropriate coalition of patients, caregivers, property owners and business owners, we will evaluate our legal options," Corry says, adding, "We're obviously very disappointed by this unanimous smackdown of patients and our constitutional rights."

Despite these remarks, Corry has at least a few positive things to say about the process.

"I do want to commend some members of the city council for taking this seriously and actually visiting patients and businesses that they seek to regulate personally," he allows. "It's a marked improvement over other municipalities that are like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand and wanting outright bans. Denver isn't the worst player in this field. We appreciate that, and do hope to continue to work with them."

Moreover, he goes on, "this proposal wasn't as bad as the earlier ones. I think there are some aspects of the community that will be able to survive this onerous regulation, and that's a good thing."

Still, he believes, "the overall impact is going to be to harm people and cause human suffering, because patients aren't going to be able to obtain their medicine."

There's also the issue of fairness: "Our patients and the community that has grown to serve them are going to have to meet higher standards, no pun intended, than any other business in Denver history."

In Corry's view, among the most legally vulnerable aspects of the council plan involves "the 1,000 foot perimeter that's around schools, day-care centers and other dispensaries. I don't think there's any rational justification for it, and the fact that they've grandfathered in the early players in the industry, creating a government-sponsored monopoly to businesses that were fortunate and smart enough to get into this early, will only keep out future competition. In some ways, that's even more irrational. The real result is going to be less access and higher costs for patients."

The regulations are scheduled to kick in March 1. Until then, Corry says, "we'll have a month and a half more of freedom -- so I will advise my clients to distribute as much medical marijuana as they possibly can before then." As for a potential lawsuit, "I don't see us filing one this week. We're focused on other things -- and we definitely need plaintiffs with standing who are willing to go to court. But if we can put together a coalition, we'll definitely consider it."

Another option: The medical marijuana community can move forward under the just-approved rules in the hope of softening them down the line. But Corry is dubious about that approach.

"Once government erects regulatory barriers, it's very unlikely that government will back down," he says. "Usually it increases and increases and adds more and more barriers to freedom. I'm usually an optimistic guy, but when you get smacked down by a unanimous city council, it's hard to strike a completely optimistic tone.

"People who've worked in this industry for years and years, engaging in caregiving activities, are going to find this will create difficulties for them. That's the reality: greater difficulties and greater cost -- especially that $5,000 fee to even walk through the door. That gets passed on to patients, and a lot of them aren't wealthy people. They're disabled, or they're on fixed income. And their medicine is just going to get more and more expensive because of the burdens the government has placed on the industry."

Proving that the medical marijuana business can operate under the latest regs "may result in some increased legitimacy for our community," Corry admits. "That may bring about a good result from this." But at the same time, "our industry needs to resist the temptation to claim victory when we don't have a victory. And I don't think this is a victory."

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