Medical marijuana: Rob Corry wouldn't sign MMJ clean-up bill if he were John Hickenlooper
Last October, attorney Rob Corry wrote to John Hickenlooper to ask the then-Denver mayor to stop prosecuting Lacy Lee, a woman busted for smoking pot at a pro-cannabis rally; the case was later dropped. Now, Corry's written to Hick again, this time to offer expert analysis on HB 1043, a bill to clean-up aspects of last year's MMJ regulatory package. If Hickenlooper asks if he should sign the bill, what would Corry tell him? No.
Corry calls the measure "a mixed blessing," with some troublesome aspects embedded in the text. He admits to being "extremely disappointed that the moratorium was continued for another year" -- meaning new MMJ-related businesses will be prohibited from launching until July 1, 2012 at the earliest. In his view, "that locks in the same players, or forces people to buy out those same players if they want to get into the industry.
"I thought the original moratorium in HB 1284," the aforementioned 2010 law, "was ridiculous. But this is protectionism at its worst. I'm sure the existing industry undoubtedly lobbied for the moratorium, because they want to protect themselves -- and the government is being their benefactor. But the moratorium has the opposite effect the government says it wants, which is responsible, upstanding people who can pass background checks in this business. My experience has been that newer arrivals tend to be business-savvy people without criminal records. But with the moratorium, most of them can't get involved."
In addition, Corry objects to what he calls "the extreme restrictions on caregivers and the disclosure requirement that they register with the Department of Revenue, which is a violation of a promise made to all of us who've been involved in this entire process. The department told us, 'We don't care about caregivers. We just want to license centers and watch the commercial side of this.' But this bill requires them to register with the Department of Revenue and disclose their location in the Department of Revenue database, as opposed to the confidential database of the Department of Health."
The result, Corry believes, is that many caregivers will refuse to register -- and while it's unclear if they could be prosecuted for not doing so, "it would be a viable option for a district attorney to pursue," he says. "Of course, if that were to happen, and I were representing that person, I'd assert the defense that 1043 is unconstitutional, because the constitution gives caregivers confidentiality and keeps them out of view of government registration and that kind of thing."
Do these requirements contradict statements made by U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a letter sent to legislators about HB 1043? Corry thinks so. "He singles out caregivers as having special protection over and above centers and grows and other businesses that are a creature of statute -- and that's something interesting we haven't heard from federal prosecutors previously. I don't want to speculate about his intent, but it's possible that caregiving may be the only safe way to dispense medicine as far as the federal government is concerned. Although the counter-argument to that is Chris Bartkowicz," the MMJ grower prosecuted federally after he showed off his Highland Ranch grow to 9News. "He claimed caregiver status, because the center concept wasn't in existence yet."
Such apparent contradictions make it "hard to have a reasoned argument about this," Corry notes. "The ground rules are made up as we go along and are constantly shifting." Nonetheless, given what he considers the flaws of HB 1043, he would encourage Hickenlooper to veto the bill, "because the negatives are worse than the positive aspects."
Page down to read Corry's letter to Hickenlooper.