Man to defend marijuana use

May 15, 2006

Felix Doligosa Jr., Rocky Mountain News

An HIV-positive man who smokes marijuana to fight nausea triggered by antiviral drugs can defend his pot use to a jury, a judge ruled Monday.

David La Goy, 46, is the second person to challenge a pot possession ticket issued by Denver police since city voters passed an initiative in November to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

In January, the city dismissed the first case after the prosecutor said police didn't have enough probable cause to justify searching the defendant's car, where the pot was found.

La Goy, whose trial is scheduled for September, was ticketed for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia on March 3.

Prosecutors opposed his request for a jury trial, saying La Goy wasn't in dire need of marijuana and hasn't tried medical alternatives to pot.

Tiffanie Bleau, the lead prosecutor, said La Goy hasn't talked to the the Colorado AIDS Project to obtain a legal medical marijuana prescription.

She also said that over the past eight years La Goy hasn't taken new medicines available to fight nauseas.

"I don't think all viable options have been pursued," she said. "He has to make at least some effort."

La Goy said he smokes pot to battle the nausea he gets from taking 15 pills every day to control his infection. La Goy also has hepatitis C and now weighs 103 pounds.

When he gets nauseous, La Goy said, he gets a watery mouth, hot and cold flashes, and sweats a lot.

At one time he drank ginger ale and ate crackers to deal with the queasiness but eventually turned to pot, which is more effective.

"You wish you could take one pill that could knock you out completely," La Goy said. "When you're unconscious, you're not sick."

La Goy's attorney, Sean McAllister, said his client can't afford a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana for him. La Goy receives $643 a month in disability payments and uses more than half of it for rent, he said.

"He throws up the drugs and lays in bed and doesn't do anything," McAllister said. "Marijuana is the only effective medicine."

Bob Melamede, a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who teaches a medical marijuana class, said people with HIV prefer to smoke pot because it's less potent than antiviral drugs.

"For many people, it really is life-saving," he said.

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