Man loses motion to use medicinal marijuana
July 12, 2011
ASPEN – A judge on Monday rejected a 23-year-old man’s plea to use marijuana for medicinal purposes while he serves probation for a drug-related conviction in Aspen.
Nathan Benner’s attorney, Joseph Saint-Veltri of Denver, had argued that he should be able to take marijuana to help him cope with his ongoing shoulder pain.
Saint-Veltri pointed to Colorado’s Amendment 20, passed by voters in 2000, which allows the use of medicinal marijuana. He said marijuana is a healthier, less addictive choice for Benner to deal with his shoulder pain than opiates, which a physician has also recommended for treatment.
“This is not an act of defiance,” Saint-Veltri told Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols. “There’s no banner he’s raising in this regard.”
Instead, Saint-Veltri said if Benner were to currently use pot, he risks a felony conviction for violating the terms of a deferred sentence he’s serving for breaking into an Aspen pharmacy in 2009 in an effort to steal oxycodone.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin argued against Benner’s proposed use of marijuana, based on his age and criminal history.
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“Mr. Benner is not someone suffering from cancer,” Mordkin said. “He’s got some shoulder pain. He’s a very young man. He can suffer a little bit … until he gets off probation.”
Mordkin noted that a person serving probation also cannot drink alcohol. It should be no different with medical marijuana, he argued.
Saint-Veltri countered, “No one ever said alcohol is medicinal. … Certainly by most accounts, it’s more dangerous than marijuana.”
Benner’s attorney also argued, “There remains a reluctance to call marijuana medicinal,” partly because of a public perception that dates as far back as the 1936 motion picture “Reefer Madness.”
“It depicted all imagined qualities marijuana has – people turning into aliens,” he said.
Nichols indicated that her decision came down to Benner’s criminal background and the fact that marijuana dosages are not regulated, other than that a registered patient can buy no more than 2 ounces of pot at one time.
“If [Benner] were not on probation and did not have a history of abuse, it would be appropriate,” she said, adding that he currently lacks the discipline to use marijuana to help curb his shoulder pain.
“You’ve got to learn to deal with pain in a different manner,” she said. “And there are all sorts of options. Marijuana is in accordance with the law, but dosages aren’t prescribed.”
Instead, the judge suggested that Benner find another way to deal with his pain, such as taking up yoga.