Colorado secretly policed medical marijuana doctors, suppressed lawsuit alleges
August 5, 2018
A lawsuit that accused Colorado regulators of quietly and illegally concocting a policy to police doctors who recommend medical marijuana to patients was entirely hidden from public view during a nearly three-year court battle, secreted behind a judge's order to keep it that way, The Denver Post has found.
Nine physicians filed the lawsuit in Denver District Court in March 2015 against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which regulates and maintains the state's medical marijuana registry, and the Colorado Medical Board, which regulates doctors. A judge initially agreed with the doctors' assertion that the policy was created illegally, but an appeals court overturned that decision late last month.
"There is no justification for concealing the entire file of a case with such a high-degree of public interest," said Frank LoMonte, director of The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. "This is more egregious because you have a case that implicates the behavior of a government agency."
The lawsuit is just one of thousands, including felony criminal cases, that a Denver Post investigation found were hidden from the public, some of them for years and all the result of judges' orders that are also suppressed.
The doctors, each listed only as a John Doe because the judge gave them anonymity protection, challenged the process the state used to create the policy, saying it was secretive and lacked public input or public hearings, a violation of Colorado's open meetings laws. As such, they argued, any referral to the Medical Board was illegitimate, as well as any subsequent investigation.
Denver District Judge Jay Grant's decision in October 2016 found that CDPHE had violated open-meetings laws. He ordered the agency to stop relying on the rule to refer doctors to the Medical Board for investigation, but allowed the board to continue its investigations anyway.
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For more on this report, go to denverpost.com.