Monday, December 3

high times

Nearly one year has passed since Chronicle News Editor Joshua Zaffos wrote "High Noon," a narrative feature on the medical marijuana trial of James and Lisa Masters, careproviders under Colorado's Amendment 20, whose Fort Collins home was raided in early August 2006 by the Larimer County Drug Task Force.

From the beginning, the Masters' attorneys at Sensible Colorado have said the case would be precedent-setting for the state, and that statement will finally be challenged today, when the Masters finally find out the status of the 39 marijuana plants that were in various stages of growth at the time they were confiscated.

The Masters weren't officially awarded information regarding the plants until last Monday, when Judge James Hiatt ruled that the couple were legitimate caregivers according to the scant and somewhat nebulous law, and that the pot was indeed medically necessary and should be returned.

(The district attorney's case rested almost entirely on trying to prove that the Masters were not "primary" caregivers to any of the witnesses because they didn't provide housing, childcare, money or at least one week's worth of food to any of the patients. Back here in reality, the challenge would be to find any careproviders, save family members, who provide any of those necessities without the assistance of Medicaid and/or Medicare, and such cases are generally extreme and immediately life-threatening.)

As I listened to the witness testimony, two things became clear: for many patients with painfully and emotionally debilitating illnesses (most of them chronic), cannabis is a smarter, likely healthier choice than highly addictive narcotics (which, by the way, are the most abused drugs among today's youth); and the state's medical marijuana registry, which is administered via the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, needs some streamlining and clarification.

The Coloradoan started trailing the story after our feature ran, and last night Channel 7 announced that they'd be in town to follow the news today. For the full story and background, I've posted the Chronicle's ongoing coverage at top right (and chronologically, including this week's exclusive look at the Masters' plans to open the county's first medical marijuana dispensary). The media attention at this stage, as opposed to, say, last week's hearing, is curious, since today's news isn't likely to reveal any surprises.

Over the summer, Lieutenant Craig Dodd of the Larimer County Drug Task Force told Zaffos the plants are "most likely dead by now."

Uh, yeah. But maybe they've got some from a more recent raid. Stay tuned for updates.

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