Governor Polis Gets Sued Over Colorado Cannabis Laws

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Governor Polis is being faced with a lawsuit over House Bill 1317, a bill that negatively affected students who were meant to benefit from the law that allows cannabis use by medical patients in public schools. 

Benjamin Wann, a cannabis patient, and his parents, Amber and Brad, supported Polis back in May when he signed the law that expanded access to cannabis in schools. This is something they had been fighting for over the past few years, and they were happy to see it become a reality. 

However, when a bill that restricted the medical program was introduced just a few days later, Governor Polis allegedly stopped communicating with the family and other advocates about their wants and needs. 

“Polis didn’t have a conversation with us. We reached out, and had a rally in front of his office after it passed. I don’t know of anyone in the community who he had a conversation with, especially those of us who just passed that other bill,” Brad said to Westword.

“We’ve seen a roller-coaster effect over the years with Benjamin having seizures. People keep saying [marijuana] is so bad for the developing brain, and here’s Benjamin, and we’ve literally seen him flourish and grow from it,” Amber added.

“He doesn’t have a wheelchair,” Amber said about her son. “He does have a voice. He can communicate, but there are a lot of his friends who can’t.”

Under this new bill, the law will require that doctors recommending medical cannabis can only do so from their scopes of practice. There will also be expanded tracking on purchases, and limited purchases, even for medical cannabis patients. 

While the recreational cannabis industry didn’t necessarily see a problem, the medical community felt attacked, as this law specifically limits what they have access to and how they have access. 

Governor Polis Faces Backlash 

Alex Buscher is the Denver attorney who is representing the plaintiff, Benjamin Wann, in the suit. He feels the bill was rushed and contains unconstitutional language. And since the Colorado Legislature can’t be sued, he is going after Polis. 

“He understands exactly what’s going on, and it’s not just about him. Ben worries about his friends,” Brad said about his son stepping up. 

“If doctors decide to stop recommending medical marijuana because they’re scared of losing their DEA licenses, then that’s the end of the medical program,” Buscher said. “Amendment 20 is clear: Doctors don’t have to say a patient is going to benefit from marijuana. They just have to certify the conclusion that a patient might benefit from marijuana.”

“Once it goes into interstate commerce, it’s easily obtainable by the federal government,” he said. “It sets Ben up for future prosecution down the line.”

Buscher thinks he has enough to go on to invalidate the entire bill. 

“We are asking the court to invalidate the entire bill because it didn’t go through the entire procedure,” Buscher said. “I believe it was an error due to the speed this was pushed through with and the amount of changes going in, but that amendment’s not in there.”

As of now, Governor Polis’ office has declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

“A lot of parents of patients with autism and epilepsy have reached out in the last three days, and they want to be involved,” Buscher said. “I will say this is pretty black and white in regard to Amendment 20, so I feel we have a very solid case. At the same time, though, very few cases are ever won challenging unconstitutionality in state and local laws.”

If this new law gets overturned, legislators will be back at square one, but many patients who are disheartened with this law would rather start from scratch than face these new restrictions.

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