Many people charged with non-drug crimes are asking for jail so that they can take advantage of their Amendment 20 rights

By refusing to overturn two recent cases, the  has said that , the medical marijuana constitutional amendment in Colorado, has been reduced to merely being a shield from state and local prosecution. Both the Colorado Supreme Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals have thus ruled that Amendment 20 is not a bundle of rights to use, possess and grow medical marijuana without limit. Our state supreme court (which has recently been known to do whatever the governor and the attorney general say) refused to look at and overule two court of appeals decisions to stand.

First Case: Unemployment Compensation

The first decision involved an unemployment ompensation case where the laid off worker asserted that he had a right to use Colorado medical marijuana, and that he was entitled to state unemployment benefits in spite of the presence of the substance in his system. The court ruled that marijuana use under Amendment 20 is not a right.  However, the court stated that Amendment 20:

  • Shields medical patients from state and local prosecution, and
  • Provides no new state constitutional rights.

This isn’t such bad news.  After all, how many states would endorse unemployment benefits for stoners? This case was kind of a loser from the beginning.

Second Case: Probation

The second case raises more interesting questions. The “medical marijuana probation case”  involved a probationer who argued that under the state constitution, Amendment 20, he had a right to use medical marijuana while on probation. The Colorado Court of Appeals did not like this idea at all. The court specifically noted that probationers in Colorado could not break any state, local or federal law. The court then cited 21 U.S.C. 844(a) for the idea that marijuana is illegal under federal statutes, and probationers could not use medical marijuana without breaking federal law.

This case means that any Colorado criminal defense lawyer who has a client facing sentencing has some interesting things to chat about with his client. If the defendant facing sentencing wants to use medical marijuana, they ought to consider rejecting probation and choosing jail as a punishment. More than one individual in my practice has chosen jail over probation in order to continue to make their own health care choices. Thus, a Colorado drug lawyer is often left with the option of asking a court to put his client in jail at sentencing, so that later the client can treat themselves with cannabis. Many people charged with non-drug crimes are asking for jail to take advantage of their Amendment 20 rights. This constitutional amendment does not protect anyone who is facing a possible probationary term. In fact, it is not protecting medical marijuana patients with charges other than marijuana violations because the patient has to choose between probation and their medicine.

The upshot of all of this is that Colorado marijuana activists will be even more motivated to get the drug legalized. If legal, people would not lose their unemployment benefits or their probationary status for carefully medicating themselves of a legal medicine, such as alcohol. Marijuana would not be treated much differently under a legalization scheme.

Shaun Kaufman Law, P.C. works with persons charged with controlled substance violations.
Shaun Kaufman has extensive experience representing such cases.

Call 24/7: 303-720-7275

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One comment on “Colorado’s Amendment 20: Shot Full of Holes

  1. You might want to read amendment 64 a bit more closely as the Beinor ruling would still apply to “legal” adult users of marijuana under the limited decrim model created under a64. As the proposed amendment would not grant a right or privilege and users would be subject to any other statutes that cite the definitions under the CSA in title 18.


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