US CO: Aspen Judge Says Man Can’t Use Pot for Pain

Medicinal cannabis regulation complicates a whole slew of federal and state laws governing how people under the supervision of the criminal justice system or with criminal records must stay clean and clear of illicit drugs.


Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2010
Source: Aspen Times Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2010 Aspen Times
Author: Rick Carroll

ASPEN — A judge ruled Monday that a local man convicted of a felony drug charge cannot use marijuana for medicinal purposes, although he has a state registry card allowing him to do so.

Judge James Boyd took up the topic during a sentencing hearing in Pitkin County District Court in Aspen for Keith Timothy Pfeiffer, who pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to attempted distribution of cocaine.

Boyd said the issue is a “troubling one for the court,” and his remark and ruling come at a time when judges across Colorado are grappling with the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. An amendment to the state constitution permits marijuana to be used for certain medical purposes.

But Boyd noted that “no matter what the state of Colorado has decided, the United States of America says that it is not legal.”

Even so, Boyd said he would entertain a motion arguing that Pfeiffer be allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, along with recommendations from a doctor who “can add the diagnosis it [medical marijuana] goes with.”

Prosecutor Jonathan Pototsky encouraged Boyd to not allow Pfeiffer, who has a number of physical ailments, to use marijuana for medical purposes as part of his probation. It is standard procedure that those who are given probation are not permitted to use illegal drugs or alcohol; medications they are allowed to use must be taken at
prescribed doses.

Pfeiffer has been on the state’s medical marijuana registry since December, his attorney, John Van Ness, told the judge. Pfeiffer uses marijuana to cope with pain from hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Both of his hips were replaced as well, Van Ness said.

“There are some problems, including pain, that doctors say are helped by medical marijuana,” Van Ness told the judge.

He added: “I don’t want to take that away from him.”

Yet Pototsky argued that Pfeiffer “hides behind his illness.”

“I don’t see why he should have his medical marijuana certificate,” Pototsky told the judge.