Damien LaGoy, R.I.P.: Medical marijuana patient and activist dies at 53
Statement about Damien LaGoy from Brian Vicente:
Denver AIDS Patient Whose Lawsuits Opened the Door for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Colorado Dies at 53
David "Damien" LaGoy's successful lawsuits against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lifted the five-patient limit on medical marijuana caregivers in 2007 and excessive restrictions on caregivers in 2009
LaGoy was one of the first Denver residents to challenge a marijuana arrest following the passage of a 2005 citywide ballot initiative to remove all penalties for possession
DENVER -- David "Damien" LaGoy, the Denver AIDS patient whose successful lawsuits against the state health department opened the door for Colorado's medical marijuana dispensary system, died Saturday at the age of 53. LaGoy, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and Hepatitis C in 1998, used medical marijuana to relieve extreme nausea and stimulate appetite.
In 2007, Sensible Colorado sued the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on his behalf, asserting that the state's limit on the number of patients a medical marijuana caregiver could assist (5) was arbitrarily denying seriously ill patients such as him from accessing medical marijuana. A Denver district court judge overturned the policy, allowing caregivers to help as many patients as they felt appropriate, which largely contributed to the emergence of Colorado's storefront dispensary model. In 2009, Sensible Colorado sued the CDPHE again on LaGoy's behalf after it passed "emergency" restrictions on medical marijuana caregivers in an effort to limit their power. The court ruled in LaGoy's favor and blasted the state for attempting to restrict seriously ill patients' access to medical marijuana.
"Through these highly-publicized cases and his unwavering tenacity in speaking out on the then stigma-laden topic of medical marijuana, Damien played a dramatic role in shaping the landscape of Colorado marijuana policy," said Sensible Colorado executive director Brian Vicente, who served as LaGoy's attorney. "He was a principled advocate who fought for justice not only for himself, but for all medical marijuana patients suffering from serious illnesses."
LaGoy first entered the media spotlight in 2006, when he became one of the first Denver residents to challenge a marijuana possession arrest following the passage of a 2005 citywide ballot initiative (Initiated Question 100) that amended city ordinances to remove all penalties for private adult marijuana possession. The charges were ultimately dropped following multiple appearances in court.
"He was a friend, he was a freedom fighter, and he changed Colorado forever," Vicente said. "He will be missed."
LaGoy was born in Rochester, N.Y., on September 11, 1959. He spent most of his life living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Denver. In 2012, he received the first-ever "Lifetime Achievement Award" from Sensible Colorado.
A 7News report featuring LaGoy.
A CBS4 report in which LaGoy appears.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana lawsuit: Why AIDS patient Damien LaGoy signed on."