- Courtesy Rebecca Lockwood
- A20 purists want unrestricted grows.
Plenty of folks would rather police just leave marijuana alone, like voters ostensibly asked them to. But even among this contingent, there are disagreements about whether and to what degree government regulation is reasonable in the era of legalization.
On one end are the purists who argue that any limitation or restriction on patients' access to medical marijuana is unconstitutional. Denver-based attorney Rob Corry, who helped draft Amendment 64 and routinely litigates against what he sees as government over-regulation, takes that libertarian kind of view. "The Colorado Constitution allows whatever amount [of marijuana] is medically necessary — that's been law for 16 years now ... and that has to translate into ability to grow because 'accessible' means the medicine is affordable and quality," he says.
Corry disputes the premise that residential grow operations are dangerous enough to warrant policing, saying, "Voters said, 'No, no — stop using police officers to do this.' Then in response, the legislature tightened criminal penalties tighter than before." (A new law, House Bill 1220 will limit home grows to 12 plants, or 24 plants with a doctor's recommendation. Previously, under state law, medical marijuana patients could grow up to 99 plants if their doctor recommended it. See "Storage Wars" for more.) Corry offers his theory for the true motivation: "Now that we've got this massive, multi-million dollar industry, it's curious the government realized they could tax this higher than any other product, and they want that money. They wrongly perceive that patients taking care of themselves is depriving the state of revenue."
His firm is weeks away from filing a lawsuit that takes aim at any and all plant limits in the state. He's hoping such restrictions will be found unconstitutional, and patients' ability to grow an unlimited number of plants at home will be restored. A preliminary injunction in such a case could suspend the implementation of the new state law criminalizing grows over 12 plants.
Local mom Rebecca Lockwood is one of the soon-to-be plaintiffs in the case. As a licensed caregiver, she's authorized to grow marijuana to make medicine for patients in need — in her case, her 18-year-old son, Calvin, whose severe autism causes self-injury, aggression, trouble sleeping and other daily difficulties. Before the city passed its own plant limit last year, Lockwood made her specialized cannabis oils for other local children suffering from epilepsy, cancer and other debilitating conditions. Once her grow became a crime, she made the difficult decision to stop donating medicine to those children, saving the risk for just her son.
While she won't say how many plants she tends in order to make various strains of oil for Calvin, Lockwood does say she worries about getting that firm knock at the door. That's why she's proactively trying to find answers. "It's unfortunate we have to file this lawsuit because we're getting lumped in with the drug cartels and these people who are [growing] for a profit," she says. "I just want to be able to grow what's medically necessary for my son and it just breaks my heart that [my former patient] is having seizures now that I can't donate medicine to him."
Lockwood was invited to join the second and current iteration of the city's medical marijuana working group. She accepted, hoping to discuss exemptions to the plant count. "But I was shut down over and over," she says, "and it became clear they just weren't willing to work with us." So she stepped down, choosing the courts instead.
Cliff Black, one of the attorneys who represented Bob Crouse as he litigated for the return of his seized medical marijuana plants (see "Not your property"), is on the working group, still trying to find a way to accommodate people like Lockwood. "We're walking this line of, 'How do we stop the black market but allow the legitimate patients to continue to cultivate?'" he says, telling the Indy he's cautiously optimistic about the prospect of creating a license for patients and caregivers to grow over 12 plants in commercial or industrial zones, treating their operation like a nonprofit. It's costly and inconvenient, Black admits, "but it's sure better than nothing at all."
For her part, Lockwood wishes the medical marijuana community wouldn't make concessions like that. Such a license doesn't exist now, and likely won't for some time, if ever. She needs to keep her son stable today, tomorrow and the next day. It's impossible for her — not to mention expensive — to do so through dispensaries: Once, when her harvest was delayed, she tried to get all Calvin's oils from dispensaries. Only two of the eight strains worked like hers do.
Lockwood says that growing in a commercial or industrial space rather than at home, while better than jail, would add a lot more work to her already crammed schedule of running a business and constantly caring for her son. "I don't know how long this will take to get resolved," she says, "but what other choice do I have?"