A Denver District Court judge rebuked 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 At that telephone conference meeting the board repealed the definition of medical-marijuana “caregiver”, casting the burgeoning industry into uncertainty —- all without taking public testimony.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.
This latest tussle was just a continuation of the legal morass 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.
However, last month 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.
Medical marijuana advocates argued 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 this interpretation of the ruling, saying the state wasn’t justified in holding an emergency hearing and excluding patients’ voices.
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.