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Judge Tosses Out Health Board Decision on Medical Pot


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A Denver District Court judge gave a heated rebuke to the state board of health today for changing rules about medical marijuana without providing adequate notice to patients.

In his ruling, Chief Denver District Court Judge Larry Naves struck down the state board's actions from a meeting earlier this month.

At that telephone conference meeting the board repealed the definition of medical-marijuana "caregiver", casting the burgeoning industry into uncertainty —— all without taking public testimony.

Naves also ordered the state to pay the attorneys' fees of medical-marijuana advocates, who filed a motion saying they were wrongly blocked from participating in the hearing.

"How is it a fair hearing?" Naves hammered the state's attorney during her arguments.

Today's tussle was just the latest legal scuffle over Colorado's work-in-progress medical marijuana system.

The particular case before Naves stretched back more than two years, when a medical-marijuana patient named Damien LaGoy sued the state over a rule - also adopted without public testimony - limiting the number of people a caregiver could serve. Caregivers, as defined in the state's constitution, are people who provide medical marijuana to patients and have a "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient."

LaGoy, who has AIDS and uses medical marijuana to control nausea from his other medications, won an injunction against the rule, and a settlement in the case requires the Health Department to notify medical-marijuana patients of rule-change hearings. There are now more than 12,000 people on the state's medical marijuana registry, a state official said today.

The state board of health took up the caregiver rule again during a marathon public session this summer, ultimately deciding against setting a patient limit and instead defining a caregiver merely as someone who provides medical marijuana to patients.

That definition, though, came into doubt last month, when the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a medical-marijuana grower, saying that caregivers must have more meaningful contact with patients than just supplying them with the drug. The ruling caused the board of health to call the emergency meeting last week, at which it struck its recently adopted caregiver definition.

That action brought uncomfortable uncertainty to the system, said Dan Pope, LaGoy's caregiver.

"They said I have to do more, but they didn't say what more," Pope said today. " They created more ambiguity."

Medical marijuana attorney Rob Corry, though, argued today that the Court of Appeals opinion applies only to cases prosecuted before the state adopted its caregiver definition this summer. In sharp exchanges with Colorado First Assistant Attorney General Anne Holton, Naves sided with Corry's interpretation of the ruling, saying the state wasn't justified in holding an emergency hearing and excluding patients' voices.

"How can you not consider the impact on the health of Mr. LaGoy when they changed the rules?" Naves asked.

"Your honor," Holton responded, "I think it's important to keep in mind that this is a temporary rule."

"It's not temporary," Naves replied, "for Mr. LaGoy."

The board of health plans to hold a more thorough hearing on the caregiver definition next month. Health Department spokesman Mark Salley said the board had originally planned to take only written public testimony but may change its mind in light of Naves' ruling.

Corry said patients and caregivers planned to show up at the meeting in droves to have their perspective heard.

"We're confident there will be strong patient participation in that meeting," Corry said.

News Hawk- Weedpipe 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: The Denver Post
Author: John Ingold
Contact: Home - The Denver Post
Copyright: 2009 The Denver Post
Website:Judge tosses out health board decision on medical pot
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