Corry Addresses Medical Marijuana Meeting
by Ari Armstrong, October 1, 2004
See Medical Marijuana in Colorado for links to more articles about this issue.
Robert Corry, a lawyer who represents clients in two prominent cases involving the medical use of marijuana, addressed a September 29 meeting of patients and caregivers. Colorado approved the medical use of marijuana in 2000, but under federal law it is still illegal. Corry's clients also attended the meeting.
Thomas and Larisa Lawrence, Robert Corry, and Dana May meet September 29. (See more photos below.)
Corry urged users of medical marijuana to follow legal guidelines. To get a license, a patient must first obtain a doctor's recommendation.
Corry said many doctors don't offer recommendations because of legal concerns. In 2001, Governor Bill Owens and Attorney General Ken Salazar issued a joint statement that warned, "[W]e remind anyone intending to register for the program -- as well as physicians considering prescribing marijuana to their patients -- that it remains a federal crime to possess, manufacture, distribute or dispense marijuana. To fulfill our duties under federal law, we are today contacting the Colorado Medical Association to remind the physicians of Colorado that doctors who dispense marijuana for any purpose risk federal criminal prosecution. We are also writing the acting United States Attorney for the District of Colorado to encourage the criminal prosecution of anyone who attempts to use this state program to circumvent federal anti-drug laws." Colorado law specifies doctors may issue a recommendation for medical marijuana, not a prescription.
A licensed patient may specify a caregiver who is then authorized, under state law, to grow limited amounts of marijuana only for medical use. Corry noted that, while the law allows for additional amounts of the drug for "medical necessity," legally it's more clear-cut to remain within the numerical guidelines, which specify six plants plus two ounces of usable marijuana.
Corry warned the twenty-plus members of the audience to carefully guard their rights by not agreeing to answer police questions without a lawyer and by not volunteering to be searched without a warrant or probable cause. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the North Metro Drug Task Force raided the home of Thomas and Larisa Lawrence, two of Corry's current clients, without a warrant on June 1.
Corry said that, while the Colorado law goes against the instincts and training of many police officers, at the same time most "cops want to bust real criminals," not hassle people following Colorado law. Generally police officers "have good hearts," Corry said.
"Don't ever let the cops into your house, don't ever sign any consent. It will cripple your ability to defend yourself. Be civil, be nice. We're the reasonable ones... We've done nothing wrong... Be peaceful with them, be civil," Corry encouraged.
The Lawrence case is apparently still under federal investigation. Larisa, who previously claimed an agent involved in the raid on her house invoked the PATRIOT Act with respect to the warrantless search, said she's confident her claim is accurate. Corry filed suit to get the Lawrences' growing equipment back from the federal government.
Dana May also attended the meeting. May, who grows marijuana for his own medical use, was raided on May 27 by federal and local agents. With Corry, May successfully sued to have his growing equipment returned. May was not prosecuted.
May said he believes federal agents began an investigation on him with his purchases at an agricultural supply store. Then, he said, he believes agents took dead marijuana plants from his trash and obtained his utility records. Perhaps it never occurred to the agents involved in the raid to simply ask May if he's a licensed grower of medical marijuana, prior to storming his house with guns drawn and seizing his property.
"Since I got raided, I've met a lot of really nice people," May said, adding the issue "brings a lot of different people together."
"They've taken me from being a very quiet guy to being very outspoken on this issue," May said.
May said he's been surprised by the outpouring of support he's received: "A lot of people I thought would be really opposed to it aren't." He said school teachers and others have encouraged him to "keep going." May said, "More people are enlightened than I thought would be." He said he collects newspaper articles about his case so that he can share the story with his grandchildren someday.
May praised Corry. "It was a matter of principle for him... It took some guts," May said; "I think we changed some minds, even in the federal government."