|Graphic: Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project
Colorado’s Supreme Court has refused to hear a sweeping challenge to the state’s new medical marijuana laws.
The Court turned down — only five days after it was filed — a request by marijuana advocates to hear arguments on whether parts of those laws violate the constitutional amendment that made medical marijuana legal in Colorado in 2000 after being approved by voters.
The pending rules violate patient privacy because of a requirement that dispensaries record medical marijuana sales on video, according to patients and advocates who mounted the challenge. The patients also argue that the laws wrongly give local cities and counties the ability to ban dispensaries.
Monday’s decision by the Colorado Supreme Court does not mean that the court has ruled on whether the new medical marijuana laws are constitutional, according to The Associated Press. Plaintiffs said they would now file another lawsuit in a lower court.
The petition had been filed on January 5 by Andrew B. Reid, senior counsel for Springer and Steinberg, P.C., a Denver law firm, on behalf of Kathleen Chippi, a Nederland, Colorado caregiver and dispensary owner, and the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project, an association of patients, caregivers and physicians who say they have been harmed by the passage of these laws.
The petition was an original jurisdiction petition, asking the Supreme Court to decide urgent constitutional issues. The Court has discretion on whether to decide original actions and hears only a small percentage of such petitions each year.
According to the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project, “its denial of this case was not a total surprise, but patients had hoped for more compassion from the court.”
|Photo: Patient and Caregivers Rights Litigation Project
|Kathleen Chippi, PCRLP: “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”
”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,” said plaintiff Chippi. “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,” Chippi 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 (HB 10-1284 and SB 109-109), because, the petition said, 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 their own massive government database of patient information. The new Patient and Medicine Tracking Database and Surveillance System will cost the state at least $4 million to set up and will be shared by five government agencies along with state and federal law enforcement.
It will include up to 16,000 different security cameras in dispensaries, visible to law enforcement via Internet web cameras 24/7. Dispensaries will be required to videotape patients as they buy their medicine and they will be required to log each patient purchase into the database.
All of this will be open to law enforcement, including the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, on demand, according to the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project.
“…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 [Medical Marijuana Center],” Chippi said. “Not only is this 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 also stand to lose their homes, their jobs, their health insurance, their children and more if it becomes known that they are medical marijuana patients,” Chippi said. “This is why confidentiality is at the foundation of Colorado’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.”
Chippi and other patients are worried that electronic patient records can never be truly secure on the Internet, as evidenced by WikiLeaks and other recent “accidental” disclosures of records. “Once the records have been leaked, the harm has been done and is irreparable to patients,” Chippi said.