Medical marijuana access eases

November 28, 2007

Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain News (CO)

Access to medical marijuana will be easier as a result of a ruling by a Denver judge.

District Judge Larry Naves last week overturned a state health department policy that restricted providers of medical marijuana to five patients.

The ruling endorses a settlement reached between the health department and attorneys for AIDS patient Damien LaGoy, who sued after his caregiver request was denied in May based on the five-patient rule.

The denial forced him to buy marijuana on the street, LaGoy said.

"I was in a very dangerous situation," LaGoy said at a news conference Monday. "I was trying to get medical marijuana from some of the darkest spots in town, risking my life at times. I actually have been robbed once trying to find medical marijuana. Also, you never know what you're getting."

LaGoy, who has AIDS and hepatitis C, said marijuana helps control his nausea and gives him an appetite. "Medical marijuana is about the only thing that helps," he said.

Naves granted an injunction this summer preventing the health department from enforcing the policy, which he said was adopted by the department in a closed meeting in 2004.

That ruling led to negotiations in which the state agreed not to enforce the five-patient rule and to notify patients, caregivers and others when considering policies affecting medical marijuana users.

Naves subsequently overturned the five-patient policy, saying its adoption violated the Colorado open meetings act.

"The health department just randomly selected five as the limit in a secret, clandestine meeting that was not open to patients or caregivers or doctors or the scientific community," said attorney Brian Vicente.

Dan Pope, whom LaGoy chose to be his caregiver and supplier of medical marijuana, said he hopes the ruling "will pave the way for establishing regulated dispensaries to provide medical marijuana in a safe, reliable way."

Supporters say the ruling is a victory for as many as 1,800 medical marijuana users in Colorado.

Health department spokesman Mark Salley said the department will take a new look at a "whether a limit is warranted and what that should be."

Whatever the department does, Salley said, would involve public comment.



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