Marijuana advocate to Denver City Council: If changes in MMJ ad ban not made, we'll sue
Update below: Last week, our William Breathes noted that a Denver City Council-proposed outdoor medical marijuana advertising ban is up for public discussion tonight -- but advocate Rico Colibri isn't waiting. During the wee hours, he sent an open letter to the council (read it below) threatening to sue if changes to the ordinance's language aren't made.
In the letter, Colibri, president of the Cannabis Alliance for Regulation & Education (CARE), was one of the main proponents behind Initiative 70, one of three MMJ ballot proposals that failed to make the 2012 ballot, expresses concern that the council appears to have mainly consulted with medical marijuana industry groups to the exclusion to organizations, like his, that are devoted to patient advocacy.
Not that Colibri is dead-set against any advertising restrictions: He acknowledges that MMJ sign spinners near schools might be inappropriate. But he's concerned that the broadness of the language "violates equal protections and limits a patients ability to be properly informed about the services offered in a given medical marijuana establishment." He also suggests that the ordinance might outlaw medical marijuana conventions and conferences.
Just as important, he sees no evidence that the presence of medical marijuana advertising has led to an increase in pot use by teenagers -- the demographic councilwoman Debbie Ortega initially set out to protect when initially suggesting that advertising be banned within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and daycare centers.
Colibri concludes with this:
We implore the Denver City Council to reconsider the wording in your current draft to avoid unnecessary litigation which would be both a waste of tax payer dollars and would result in the entire ordinance being struck down in court. Please be advised we have copied in our attorney.... Passage of the ordinance as currently written leaves us no alternative but to file suit.
Update: A short time ago, we reached CARE's Rico Colibri, who was en route to speak with attorney Andrew Reid -- who's handling a challenge to state medical marijuana regulations -- about the Denver City Council's proposed medial marijuana outdoor advertising ban. He adds some detail to the letter to council members on view below.
In Colibri's view, the proposal is "a blatant violation of the First Amendment. You can't target one group of businesses for no compelling reason just because you hate medical marijuana or think sign spinners are inappropriate."
Regarding the latter, Colibri's had such thoughts on occasion -- like one time when he saw a female spinner near a school who looked to be about sixteen years old. "We think medical marijuana businesses need to be good stewards for the communities they're in," he allows.
At the same time, he detects a larger purpose behind the advertising ban, which is supported by the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, among others.
"There's been an attempt at consolidation" of dispensaries, he maintains. "And this is another thing to push out mom-and-pop businesses and reduce the options for patients. It's telling mom and pops, 'You can't even afford to advertise, so you'll have to sell your business.' And it seems like local authorities are cooperating in those efforts."
Outdoor advertising for dispensaries represents "no real threat," Colibri believes, "other than they find it annoying and everyone is sick of medical marijuana at this point."
At the end of the day, though, "these are patients," Colibri goes on. "They're human beings. People keep thinking about it as only businesses and advertising. But everybody's forgotten there are people with debilitating conditions who use this medicine."
One more thing: Colibri says if lawsuits must be filed in this case, he'd like to target each member of the city council individually, as opposed to suing them collectively. As he puts it, "Politicians need to understand they can all get an attorney, and everyone can join in the fun."
Page down to read the proposed ordinance and Colibri's "Notice of Litigation" to Denver City Council members.