The Colorado Court of Appeals redefined the role of medical-marijuana caregivers Thursday in a ruling that says growers must have more meaningful contact with patients than simply providing the drug.
The court upheld the conviction of Stacy Clendenin, who in 2006 was charged with cultivation of marijuana in her Longmont home, which is a felony.
Clendenin argued that the marijuana she grew was distributed to authorized medical-marijuana patients through dispensaries. The court found that Clendenin needed to know the patients.
In a special concurring opinion, Judge Alan Loeb wrote that Colorado’s Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana, “cries out for legislative action” because it is vague in regulating the roles of caregivers.
Clendenin’s attorney, Robert Corry, said he plans to appeal the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court and said the decision has only a narrow impact.
“The ruling only applies to those who went to trial before July when the state medical board agreed that caregivers could simply provide marijuana,” Corry said. “This ruling does not affect people that are in business right now. That being said, I represent a number of clients, and I will be advising people to meet their patients in person, in the abundance of caution.”
Mike Saccone, a spokesman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, disputed Corry’s statement that the decision is limited to Clendenin and a few others charged before July. He said that the attorney general believes the court’s interpretation of the state’s constitution trumps any actions by the state medical board.
“The decision speaks for itself,” Saccone said.
Suthers applauded the court’s decision. “I am pleased to see the Court of Appeals has provided legal support for our case that a caregiver, under Amendment 20, must do more than simply provide marijuana to a patient,” Suthers said in a statement. “I also was pleased to see the assertion in the special concurrence that Amendment 20 ‘cries out for legislative action.’ I could not agree more. I hope the legislature will act and create a regulatory framework that gives substance to the Court of Appeals’ findings.”
Clendenin wants to get the felony removed from her record and already has served a probationary sentence.
Thursday’s ruling, if upheld on appeal, could change the process now in place to supply the burgeoning medical-marijuana industry in Colorado — if the Colorado legislature doesn’t restrict it first.
State Sen. Chris Romer plans to introduce some medical-marijuana restrictions when the legislature convenes in January.
“The state needs to issue clear, bright lines and needs to define medical marijuana with a meaningful-caregiver relationship,” Romer said.
Romer said some caregivers are operating like convenience stores without knowing whom they are serving. He believes caregivers should provide other services to patients, such as acupuncture, pain management, counseling and nutrition.
The Court of Appeals agreed but didn’t define what would constitute an acceptable relationship between patient and caregiver.
“If you are a dispensary simply selling marijuana and acting like a 7-Eleven, you will now be prosecuted based on this decision,” Romer said. “My hope is that this will slow or stop the gold rush of dispensaries that are growing like weeds, no pun intended.”
By Felisa Cardona: 303-954-1219 or firstname.lastname@example.org