Colorado Attorney General: Pot mags won’t be treated like porn


Despite the attempts of Colorado lawmakers to put marijuana-centered magazines behind the counter at booksellers and convenience stores like pornography, pot publications won’t have to be hidden from view.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers ruled that the provision of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana laws regulating how marijuana magazines are sold is unconstitutional and said he won’t go to court to defend it.

The ruling comes just a week after High Times magazine, The Daily Doobie and The Hemp Connoisseur filed a lawsuit claiming the magazine prohibitions violated their first amendment right. Forcing people to ask for a magazine that sits behind a counter because it has buds on the cover in a state where cannabis use is legal for adults is a complete overreach of power, they argue.
Colorado lawmakers passed the magazine ban along with dozens of other rules last month as part of a package intended to legitimize and regulate the recreational cannabis industry as required by voters with the passage of Amendment 64.
Prominent Colorado First Amendment attorney David Lane is representing the publications. “The government cannot pick and choose which political messages they like and which political messages they dislike in the marketplace of ideas,” Lane told Denver Westword. “The government has to stay completely on the sidelines, with very limited exceptions. If the attorney general is smart — and John Suthers is smart — he will concede the point rather than fight about it and ultimately end up paying my exorbitant attorneys fees, which is what they’ll do when they lose the case.”
The ACLU also filed a lawsuit on behalf of booksellers like Denver’s famous Tattered Cover bookstore. They point out that the law is overreaching and could be used to silence political free speech.
“Would a special issue of Time magazine that’s focusing on marijuana or the legalization movement or something about enforcement come within the purview of this new statute?” ACLU Colorado director Mark Silverstein said last week.
Based on their arguments, it seems Suthers came to a logical conclusion: this isn’t a hill worth dying over and he isn’t going to waste state money defending the recently-passed laws.
“No magazine whose primary focus is marijuana or marijuana businesses is required to be sold only in retail marijuana stores or behind the counter in establishments where persons under twenty-one years of age are present, because such a requirement would violate the United States Constitution, the Colorado Constitution, and section 24-4-103(4)(a.5)(IV), C.R.S.”
Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project and the face of the Amendment 64 campaign, applauded the decision in a press release:
“The idea that stores can prominently display magazines touting the joys of drinking wine and smoking cigars, yet banish those that discuss a far safer substance to behind the counter, is absolutely absurd,” Tvert said. “The fact that legislators passed this rule despite being informed it is a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution demonstrates the bigotry that still exists with regard to marijuana. It is time for our elected leaders to get over their reefer madness and recognize that a majority of Coloradans – and a majority of Americans – think marijuana should be legal for adults.”
Still, Lane says his lawsuit may go forward as a way of setting precedence in the future. “[The court] may want to know what mechanisms exist in the state system to prevent somebody down the road from changing their minds on this and implementing the legislation,” Lane said. “I’d like to know the same thing.”