A Denver lawyer is threatening the first of what may be many lawsuits to come should Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sign into law bills dealing with the historic legalization of recreational marijuana.
But it’s coming from an unexpected quarter, over a portion of the regulatory bill that has gotten almost zero attention compared to the rest of the issues it deals with — how retail stores treat pot magazines.
According to the bill awaiting Hickenlooper’s signature, publications like High Times that feature glossy pictures of cannabis plants are to be dealt with more strictly than pornography, kept behind the counter and away from the prying eyes of children.
This amounts to a First Amendment violation, according to attorney David Lane, who is representing two marijuana magazines, the Daily Doobie and Hemp Connoisseur.
Lane is known for representing controversial and colorful clients, including former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. What his clients have in common, in Lane’s estimation, is a valid claim that their freedom of speech is being violated.
In this case, Lane believes the violation is “blatant,” as he wrote in a letter to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, warning him that if the governor signs the bill into law, as expected, “he can expect a First Amendment lawsuit filed promptly.”
Legal expert Dan Recht, quoted on Denver Channel 7, said the issue isn’t as tangential as it sounds.
The government can regulate publications that deal with illegal issues more strictly than those about legal topics, he said. Given pot’s weird limbo status as being legal in Colorado, but illegal under federal laws, it’s yet another unanticipated can of worms resulting from Colorado having legalized pot.
“[T]his is a new issue, given that marijuana is newly legal in Colorado,” Recht told the TV station, “and I suspect that because it’s legal that this section will be found unconstitutional.”
He added that adult magazines like Playboy and Penthouse aren’t restricted to behind-the-counter display, even though they can only be purchased by adults.
“So it seems to me the distinction is not a fair one and frankly not a constitutional one,” he said.
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