Supreme Court won’t hear marijuana case

The Colorado Supreme Court Monday said it will not hear a medical marijuana case filed with the Court last week.

Plaintiffs said they will file the case with a lower court soon.

The petition had been filed on Jan. 5, 2011 by Andrew B. Reid, senior
counsel for Springer and Steinberg, P.C., a Denver law firm, on behalf of Kathleen Chippi, a Nederland caregiver and dispensary owner, and the Patient and Caregivers Rights Litigation project, an association of patients, caregivers and physicians that claim they have been harmed by the passage last year of HB 10-1284 and SB 10-109.

The petition was an original jurisdiction petition, asking the Supreme Court to decide what plaintiffs said are urgent constitutional issues. The Court has discretion on whether to decide original actions and hears only a small percentage of such petitions filed each year. So Chippi said its denial of this case was not a total surprise.

“Apparently, the Supreme Court does not think that it is a matter of great urgency that sick and dying people in Colorado are being denied their constitutional rights of safe and confidential access to medicine,” she said in a press release. “This delay in deciding these constitutional issues only harms patients by forcing them to wait months or years for the Court’s decision and spend thousands of dollars to decide issues that the Court knows it will be ruling on eventually. In the meantime, the Department of Revenue and the state legislature will continue with impunity to enact unconstitutional laws that harm patients.” She said. “We are being treated like second-class citizens yet again.”

The petition had asked the court to overturn large parts of laws passed by the Colorado legislature last year because plaintiffs believe they restrict patient access to medicine and violate patient privacy rights guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution.

The Department of Revenue is in the process of replacing the Colorado
Department of Health and Environment’s confidential patient registry with a new database of patient medicine information. The new Patient and Medicine Tracking Database and Surveillance System will be shared by several government agencies and state and federal law enforcement. State officials say the data will remain confidential, but Chippi fears otherwise.

“Just as the state has taken away the Constitutional protection of caregivers, they are now taking away the Constitutional protection for patients. MMC applicants were forced to revoke their constitutional right to be a caregiver in exchange for the statutory privilege of applying to operate an MMC. Similarly, patients are being told they must revoke their constitutional right to patient confidentiality in order for the ‘privilege’ of purchasing their medicine at an MMC. Not only is this is completely backwards of how the constitution was supposed to work, but it opens patients up to immeasurable harm if (when) their information is leaked from the government database. Patients stand to lose their homes, their jobs, their health insurance, their children and more if it becomes known that they are medical marijuana patients. That is why confidentiality is at the foundation of Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment.,” said Chippi in a prepared statement.

Chippi said she and other patients are worried these electronic patient records can never be secured on the Internet, as evidenced by WikiLeaks and other recent disclosures of records. Once the records have been leaked, the harm has been done and is irreparable to patients, she said.

Chippi said she will now file her action in District Court.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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