Medical marijuana grow isn't child abuse any more than having a liquor cabinet, attorney says

Thumbnail image for joseph lightfoot photo cropped.JPG
Joseph Lightfoot.
Update: Joseph Lightfoot was originally charged with felony child abuse for a legal medical marijuana grow simply because he had three kids living in the home where he was cultivating. The count was later bumped down to a couple of misdemeanors, to which Lightfoot pleaded guilty -- a decision his attorney, Daniel Murphy, wishes could have been avoided. In his view, "the case never should have been brought," because it's based on a fallacy.

In our original version of this post, on view below, Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough revealed that the felony count was amended in part because the statute under which Lightfoot was initially charged had originally been written with meth houses in mind -- hence the use of the word "manufacture." After further analysis, she said DA personnel determined that he should face misdemeanor counts from the same statute, which maintain that abuse takes place if a parent or guardian "permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child's life or health."

As for Murphy, he points out that the DA's office only changed its mind about the felony charge after he filed a motion attacking the use of the meth-related language against his client. "Medical marijuana was approved by voters in 2000," he says, "and this amendment to the child abuse law came out a few years later, at a point when medical marijuana was legal. It used all these methamphetamine terms, like ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and isomers, but it didn't say anything about cultivating marijuana. And they didn't add 'cultivation' when they revised it again the next year. So it was clearly a complete misapplication of the statute."

What about the argument that an MMJ grow creates a threat to children? "I think that's highly questionable," Murphy says. "There's no science behind the assertion that, for example, a child could ingest part of a plant and it would be extremely harmful to them. Of course, we don't want kids eating marijuana plants, but it's probably less harmful than if they ingested Comet or bleach -- and people aren't being charged with child abuse for having that in their house.

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Joseph Lightfoot with one of his kids.
"Child abuse is putting your child in a position of danger. If you go to a bar or a strip club and leave your kid in the car for four hours, that's child abuse. But operating a legal marijuana grow in your basement, where the doors are shut and the children are instructed not to go down there, I don't think that rises to child abuse."

Besides, growing medical marijuana is "a legal endeavor," he emphasizes. "So it's like having a liquor cabinet. You can't go around charging everyone who has a liquor cabinet or Drano underneath their sink or a legally purchased firearm with child abuse based on a potential threat. And they have no scientific basis for claims about a threat based on mold or the ubiquitous home-invasion argument."

As spokeswoman Kimbrough concedes, there was no evidence of injury in regard to Lightfoot's children -- which isn't surprising given a recent Canadian study, which found that kids of marijuana growers are typically in better health than their peers.

So why was Lightfoot charged in the first place? "I think this started with the cops," Murphy says. "Certain police agencies don't like medical marijuana laws, and I think this is one of those cases. It was clearly overcharged, and he only pleaded to a class 2 misdemeanor because he didn't have the resources to fight it. Now, do I wish he didn't get sixty days of home detention?" he asks, referencing the sentence handed down by Judge Andre Rudolph. "Of course. I know the judge gave it careful consideration. But I don't think it ever should have been charged originally, and it's just unfortunate that Mr. Lightfoot got caught in the political switches."

Moreover, Murphy fears the same thing could happen to others in Lightfoot's situation. "I'm sure some district attorneys will try one way or another to encroach on this constitutional right little by little," he warns. "So it's up to the legislature and the medical marijuana lobbyists to strike the right balance. Because this is kind of a dark cloud on the horizon."

Page down to get the DA's office take on the ruling.



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21 comments
Scooby
Scooby

Myself and my wife who is my care-giver have the same charges against us. We dont even have a grow in our home but just having my medicine is enough right? T.V. and computers gives out radiation that is harmfull to my child shouldnt they charge the manufactureres of those products for endangering my child, no they will charge me because I made the horrible decision to bring the product into my home with a child present. I am fighting hard and very stressed, already a cardiac patient and my well-being is at risk without this harrassment from Governor Hickenloopers departments and divisions. Thanks, Scooby  

Rev. B Baker
Rev. B Baker

they shouldnt have plead out, if you believe there shouldnt be charges, WHY DID YOU AS HIS LEGAL COUNSEL HAVE HIM PLEA OUT? Ini SAY YOU OWE HIM AN APPEAL!

Light Rail Tattler
Light Rail Tattler

It's trumped up charges, but one of these days the cops will bust down the door to find Cheech and Chong DVD Up and Smoke replaying over and over with Cheech and Chong passed out and Cheech and Chong's kids consuming Weed and Seed soda pop and Brownies then the trumped up charges will be attempted mass murder.

Sunnymadeline
Sunnymadeline

There  was a parent that took their toddler for a walk at dusk on an open space trail.  A coyote bit the kid and the authorities went out the next day and killed a coyote.  Now one has to ask which parent was putting their kid at risk with the coyote.  So some coyote was killed the next day.  Now, I would really like to know who was putting their kids at risk.  Nothing happened to the parent and the animal was killed.  What is wrong with this story and the one about the coyote attack?  Who was putting their kid's life at risk?  The moron in Broomfield, or this pot grower.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

The Denver District Attorney proceeded to convict Mr. Lightfoot on charges of child abuse on the theory that he permitted "a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child's life or health."?!?  The Denver District Attorney is a liar acting under color of law to falsely charge and convict citizens of crimes they did not commit.  He and his office are more of a threat to public safety and order than all the murderers, rapists, and burglars in Denver combined! 

Pete
Pete

It's amazing to me how long it takes the DA to uncover the perfectly obvious.  

Horse With No Name
Horse With No Name

Guns in the home pose a much greater danger than a plant, could you imagine the outcry if gun owners were charged with child abuse for storing guns in their basement?

Kathleen Chippi
Kathleen Chippi

Joseph Lightfoot,  So sorry law enforcement has turned your life into a mess.  They seem to be attacking mmj statewide.  

Brian Martinez
Brian Martinez

So basically, you can be charged with felony child abuse for engaging in an activity that's allowed under state law.  Brilliant!

And what's this horseshit?  "When we looked at the review of the facts in light of the statute, we filed those charges in good faith. But every case we file, as it makes its way through the process, is continually evaluated -- and it's not uncommon for us to amend charges."

In other words, we make up a lot of bullshit, and when we're called on it, we keep reducing the charges to something that will actually stick, because conviction rates mean a lot more to us than actually serving the interests of justice.  I remember when Ms. Kimbrough reported the news, before she became a paid liar for the city.  How do you sleep at night, lady?

onebrownmouse
onebrownmouse

There is no known lethal dose for cannabis (LD50) and DEA Judge Frances Young declared it the "safest therapeutic substance known to man"....so the kids are alright.  And Coloradan's constitutional right to mmj includes all Coloradans of every age, which reflects A20 authors understood this to be factual and voters found it acceptable.  Minors need 2 doctors recs, adults one.   

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I don'twant to hear anything out of Morrissey's corrupt mouth!  Get rid of this aider and abetter of police abuse and killings now!

drbob
drbob

These charges are absurd. A medical marijuana grow is not a danger to children. Even if a child were to consume fresh green bud, they would not become intoxicated. The plant does not make psychoactive THC but rather non-psychoactive THC acid which converts to THC upon curing and or heating. When this simple fact was presented by me in a similar case on the west slope, the DA had the intelligence and integrity to drop the case. If I can be of any assistance in the case as a free expert witness contact me drbob

concernedparentandtaxpayer
concernedparentandtaxpayer

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.   If ordinary Americans could grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, it would be about as valuable as home-grown tomatoes. Let's put the criminals out of business and get them out of our neighborhoods. Let's let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards.   Here's one way that IT IS REALLY WORKING: Arresting the criminals and collecting a fee from the registered growers (and bringing in thousands of dollars to support the county budget); what a great plan! This is the way to build a better America! http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/...   The current proposal before Congress, bill HR 2306, will allow states to decide how they will regulate marijuana. Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Ele... and ask them to sign on as a CO-SPONSOR of HR 2306.And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Scooby. Much appreciated.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

A huge number of dogs and a couple of kids have gotten sick in Breckenridge from eating wild mushrooms this year. 

Wayward Bill
Wayward Bill

Best response here.K eepI tS impleS tupid always works.Joseph Lightfoot and family you have my sympathy.  You got a raw deal.Peace, Pot, Politics,Wayward Bill ChengelisPresident,US Marijuana Party 

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting point, Horse With No Name -- one Lightfoot's attorney will be making in a followup to this original post. Watch for it, and thanks for reading.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

People, please don't put medical in front of marijuana anymore.  This is the Colorado circus, and the show has to end.  The CDPHE and DOR mmj departments are the epicenter of the conspiracy to take your weed, your children and your freedom.  If this story is not enough, let me tell you, down with the dispensaries, down with medical marijuana, and down with the pot clown lawyers and politicians. 

Now can we all just get high and have fun again?

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Kathleen?  "SEEM to be"?!?  Colorado's Establishment is in full-scale armed rebellion against the People and the Constitution!

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