Damien LaGoy, R.I.P.: Medical marijuana patient and activist dies at 53
Opponents of medical marijuana tend to characterize MMJ patients as twenty-something slackers who merely want an excuse to get high, but LaGoy contradicted that image. He had AIDS and was in ill health for years before finally succumbing on Saturday at age 53. Look below for excerpts from our previous interviews with LaGoy, as well as a tribute from an Amendment 64 proponent.
As noted by Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente in a memorial seen in its entirety below, LaGoy was part of successful suits against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over a five-patient limit for MMJ caregivers, as well as another caregiver-related complaint in 2009 -- and he made news for challenging a marijuana arrest after Denver residents voted to remove possession penalties circa 2005.
Westword spoke with LaGoy many times over the years. Back in October 2010, for example, he weighed in about a Colorado Board of Health decision to eliminate fees for indigent patients. Unfortunately, LeGoy said, the criteria used to determine indigency left out many people in need, including him.
When he spoke to the board, he told us, "I couldn't talk very long. I've been very sick, so I was out of breath, I was exhausted; I just wanted to be in bed. So I got up there and the adrenaline started rushing -- and I said the wrong amount of money I get each month."
The total he mentioned, $917 per month, was $14 above the amount that would have qualified him as indigent. And while the actual sum was $719, he was still excluded due to another technicality. "They're going to grant a fee waiver for people who are on SSI -- Supplemental Security Income -- or food assistance," he maintained. "And I'm on SSDI -- Social Security Disability Insurance -- and I make too much to get food stamps. So I can't get a waiver."
Damien LaGoy during a previous media interview.
Given that LaGoy's license expired two days from the date of our conversation, he said, "This may be my last interview."
Fortunately, he was wrong; he lived to fight for many more days. In July 2011, for instance, he signed on to lawsuit against Colorado's medical marijuana laws.
"They've really gone against the constitution with this whole system of laws," he said. "And one thing that really worries me is the idea of videotaping all transactions. My dispensary is in a very public place, and my face is out there. I weight 100 pounds and I stand five-eight -- and I've been mugged before. It's not pleasant: My jaw was broken and took eight or nine weeks to heal, and I don't need to lose any more weight. And with this whole system basically putting me on display, well, the entire scenario is very upsetting."
He added that medical marijuana helped increase his appetite and settle the nausea that came with his condition.
"I can't always afford to go to my dispensary," he acknowledged, noting that his original caregiver's case of muscular dystrophy had advanced to the point where he could no longer bend over and care for plants. "So sometimes I have to go to old street sources -- and there's a real difference. Even my roommate noticed that when I smoke the street stuff, it helps the nausea, but it doesn't do anything for my appetite. But when I smoke the medical stuff, I attack the refrigerator.
"When you have an attack at four o'clock in the morning, and you start throwing up and can't stop, you feel so helpless and alone. You just want to close your eyes and go to sleep. And medical marijuana is the only thing that helps."
Our condolences to LaGoy's friends, family and loved ones, as well as those for whom he advocated.
Continue to read a remembrance of Damien LaGoy by Amendment 64 proponent Brian Vicente, plus two past TV appearances.