Who really wrote Colorado's medical-marijuana law?

Colorado's flourishing medical marijuana industry, with nearly a hundred pot dispensaries statewide servicing thousands and thousands of marijuana patients, got its start in 2000, when state voters legalized medical marijuana by passing Amendment 20. But who was the ganja genius who came up with the amendment? Most people in the scene point to Warren Edson, one of three main lawyers who consult with Colorado dispensaries. Based on Edson's portrayal of his role during a January 2009 interview, Westword's called Edson Amendment 20's co-author, as have several other newspapers. What's more, Edson refers to himself as one of the amendment's organizers on websites for his law practice and "Medical Marijuana 101," an education program he helps teach.

Martin Chilcutt begs to differ, however. Chilcutt, now executive director of the Michigan-based Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, was formerly a Colorado-based psychotherapist who helped launch the medical-marijuana campaign in the 1990s and is listed as one of Amendment 20's two proponents. "I'm the guy that started it," says Chilcutt. "This guy Warren Edson, I've known him for fifteen years. I consider him a friend, but every time I read in the newspapers about it, they always refer to him as the author of the amendment. He had nothing to do with it." The only legal work Chilcutt says he ever paid Edson for involved an unrelated real-estate issue.

The lawyer Chilcutt says he did pay to work on Amendment 20 was Denver-based Mark Grueskin, who also says he has no memory of Edson working on the issue. "I don't know if I've ever met Warren or had any conversations with Warren," Grueskin says. "I can tell you that the drafting process included conference calls in which quite a number of people were participating. I don't recall Mr. Edson was one of those people, but I suppose it's possible."

It's more than possible -- it happened, says Edson. He insists the first meeting held to consider the medical-marijuana initiative was held in his Lakewood office in 1997 or 1998. In the lengthy back-room dealings that followed, Edson says there were lots of major players involved, including representatives of national organizations like the Americans for Medical Rights. If some people don't recall Edson being a part of it, he says they're likely to "know me as the long-haired attorney with a ponytail."

"None of us authored it," concludes Edson, who adds that Chilcutt only had a partial role in the finished project and that Edson himself, as a legal volunteer, "injected maybe five words into the sucker."

So what will history say regarding Colorado's founding fathers of pot? Maybe it won't. With the way things are going, students will be too medicated to read their textbooks.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner