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Friday, October 29, 2010

Colorado: El Paso County's Initiative to Ban Medical Marijuana Facilities to Remain on the Ballot

Judge Timothy Simmons
By Ron Crumpton

Colorado – El Paso District Court Judge Timothy Simmons ruled that the county’s ballot initiative, to ban all future and existing medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas, can remain on the ballot.

Sixteen medical marijuana businesses had filed suit to have the initiative removed from the ballot, but Judge Simmons ruled that it would be improper for the court to issue a pre-election judicial action.

“The electorate is entitled to believe that their votes will be counted, and they’ll know the results and that the election will mean something,” Simmons said in ruling.

The court’s ruling could provide a precedent for other counties and municipalities to run initiatives to close marijuana dispensaries. While 13 other counties have initiatives on the ballot, El Paso County’s is the only one that would close existing dispensaries.

Bob Hoban, attorney for the plaintiffs, believes that medical marijuana facilities are no different from any other business.

“They seek the right to continue operating their businesses with the same authority they were granted by their government when they first opened their doors,” Hoban said. “The county’s actions here reflect an unconstitutional attempt at a regulatory taking. They can’t say ‘yes’ to such business, take our clients’ money, and then reverse course on a whim.”

Hoban makes a good point, but he is wrong in one respect. Unlike your local hardware store, many El Paso County residents rely on these centers to supply them with the medicine necessary to manage their condition.

On could ask if the court would have taken the same position if the initiative placed a ban hospitals and pharmacies.

Many medical marijuana patients have conditions that prevent or limit their ability to travel to other facilities. Banning these businesses could put the health of many patients at risk and cause the suffering of many more.

Steve Hammers, a plaintiff in the case, said that if the measure passes it would be devastating to patients.

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