Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper is being sued for not following a state law that would have legalized adult use of cannabis. The state’s lawsuit against him is being handled by attorney John Suthers, who is a former Colorado attorney general and a former Colorado governor.
Some politicians are so opposed to the marijuana industry that they are willing to sue the state’s top marijuana regulator. In a filing made last week in District Court of Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper sued Michael Elliott, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue. He argues that Elliott “has exceeded the authority granted to him in the Colorado Constitution.” The governor’s lawsuit comes in response to a state audit that specifically targeted the Cannabis Enforcement Division, the agency that manages the state’s cannabis laws. Several months ago, the division began enforcing new rules that expand the number of license applicants it will consider—and the fees they’ll have to pay.
Governor Polis is being sued over House Bill 1317, which negatively impacted students who were supposed to benefit from a law allowing cannabis use by medical patients in public schools.
Benjamin Vann, a cannabis patient, and his parents, Amber and Brad, supported Polis last May when he signed a bill expanding access to cannabis in schools. They have fought for this in recent years, and they are happy that it has now become a reality.
But when a bill was introduced a few days later to limit the medical program, Governor Polis allegedly did not contact the family and other advocates about their wants and needs.
Polis didn’t talk to us. We contacted him and held a demonstration in front of his office after the law passed. I don’t know anyone in the community he’s talked to, especially those who just passed another law, Brad told Westword.
We’ve seen the roller coaster effect over the years when Benjamin has had seizures. People say all the time that marijuana is bad for brain development, but for Benjamin it is and we literally see him blossom and grow from it, Amber added.
He doesn’t have a wheelchair, Amber said of her son. He really has a voice. He can communicate, but many of his friends can’t.
Under the new bill, doctors who recommend medical cannabis would only be allowed to do so as part of their practice. Purchases will also be better controlled and purchases from patients with medicinal cannabis will also be restricted.
While the recreational cannabis industry sees no problem, the medical community feels attacked because this law specifically limits what they have access to and how.
Governor Polis receives a backlash
Alex Boucher is a Denver attorney representing the plaintiff, Benjamin Vann, in this lawsuit. He believes that the bill was rushed and contains unconstitutional provisions. And since the Colorado legislature can’t be sued, they’re going after Polis.
He knows exactly what’s going on, and it’s not just about him. Ben worries about his friends, Brad says about his son.
If doctors decide to stop recommending medical marijuana for fear of losing their DEA license, it would mean the end of the medical program, Boucher said. Amendment 20 is clear: Doctors do not need to be told that the patient will benefit from marijuana. All you have to do is confirm the conclusion that the patient can benefit from marijuana.
Once it gets into interstate commerce, it can be easily obtained by the federal government, he said. This will prepare Ben for future prosecutions.
Boucher believes he has enough reasons to declare the entire bill invalid.
We ask the court to reject the entire bill because it did not go through the entire process, Boucher said. I think it’s a mistake, because everything has happened so fast and so many changes have been made, but this change doesn’t exist.
At this time, Governor Polis’ office would not comment on the lawsuit.
Many parents of autism and epilepsy patients have contacted us in the past three days and they want to participate, Boucher said. I would say it’s a pretty black and white case in terms of Amendment 20, so I think we have a very strong case. At the same time, very few cases challenging the unconstitutionality of state and local laws are won.
If this new law is repealed, legislators will start from scratch, but many patients frustrated by this law would rather start from scratch than face new restrictions.