With ink barely dry, Colorado’s new pot laws head to court

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Colorado’s new laws regulating legal marijuana were only on the books for a day before a lawsuit was filed by a group of pot magazines.

The publications High Times, Doobie Daily and Hemp Connoisseur filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday claiming that a provision of the new laws violate their First Amendment rights.

It requires pot-themed magazines be sold only in marijuana retail stores or be kept behind the counter at stores where people under 21 are present, a requirement that’s even more restrictive than for pornography.

Prior to Tuesday, when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several bills regulating legal marijuana, the magazines — and many others like them — could be found on the shelves of most major booksellers and newsstands without any rules as to where they could be placed and displayed.

Attorney David Lane, who is representing the magazines, had warned that a lawsuit would be filed quickly if Hickenlooper signed the bills.

“By imposing these content-based restraints on the speech by prohibiting plaintiffs from freely distributing and publicizing their message, defendants are depriving plaintiffs of their rights to free speech and the public’s right to hear a speaker, which are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and were protected under law until this statute went into effect,” the complaint reads.

“This bill specifically targets the content of Plaintiffs’ speech: marijuana.”

This is the second lawsuit over new rules governing the adult recreational use of marijuana, which Colorado voters approved in November.

Last week, Brandon Baker, a Northern Colorado man who says he uses marijuana for religious purposes, said he planned to file a lawsuit to block a controversial “stoned driving” law which sets a level of presumptive impairment at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Many medical marijuana patients and other frequent uses have argued the limit is too low and could ensnare people who test over the limit but who aren’t too impaired to drive.

At a marijuana forum held at the Denver Post on Wednesday, Rob Corry, an attorney who specializes in defending medical and recreational marijuana users, quipped half-jokingly that the Post itself could be restricted to behind-the-counter sales if it takes advertising for marijuana businesses.

State Rep. Rob Gardner told the Associated Press earlier this month that the restriction on pot publications is “constitutionally defensible” because it’s within the state government’s right to restrict access to material about a product that it regulates.

Both the state of Colorado and Hickenlooper are named as defendants. Attorney General John Suthers, who campaigned against legalization, will represent them in both suits.

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