A Denver district judge issued a temporary injunction Tuesday against a Colorado policy limiting the number of patients a medical marijuana provider can serve. The lawsuit was brought by David “Damien” LaGoy, a medical marijuana patient who is suffering from AIDS and Hepatitis C. LaGoy uses marijuana to ease the nausea that would otherwise prevent him from taking his medication.
LaGoy had asked the state to approve Daniel Pope as his registered medical marijuana provider. The state refused because Pope already served five patients, the limit according to a policy adopted by the health department in 2004.
Sensible Colorado, a non-profit organization working for effective drug policy, took LaGoy’s case pro bono in an effort to overturn the five-patient policy. Brian Vicente, an attorney and head of Sensible Colorado, argued that the policy was adopted in violation of Colorado Open Meetings Act.
“They didn’t consult any medical marijuana patients. They didn’t consult any caregivers,” Vicente said. “The fact is that it was done in a secretive meeting that was closed to the public.”
Vicente also called the policy arbitrary and compared it to restricting doctors to only a certain number of patients.
Medical marijuana can be difficult for patients to obtain, Vicente said. There’s no central directory and providers, wary of becoming targets for criminals or prosecutors, shy away from advertising. The five-patient policy made it even more difficult for patients to obtain marijuana from people they trust.
“It had the end effect of denying this AIDS patient his life-giving medicine,” Vicente said.
Denver District Judge Larry Naves agreed with Vicente and LaGoy, saying the policy should have undergone public review and it was inappropriate to make LaGoy suffer.
Vicente said it was the outcome he expected, but he “was somewhat surprised that he issued such a strongly worded determination. It was ultimately scolding the state health department.”
Vicente will now ask the state to permanently rescind the five-patient policy. If that is denied, there will likely be a trial. But in the meantime, the policy is suspended statewide.