Corry takes on Suthers in heated matchup
Colorado’s leading medical marijuana attorney squared off against one of the industry’s most prominent critics yesterday in a fiery debate at the University of Denver.
And before screams from pro-marijuana activists closed the debate on a heated note, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers — an opponent of the booming medical marijuana industry — and attorney Rob Corry sparred for an hour on everything from federal and state rights to the intent of Amendment 20.
Suthers began the debate arguing that the numerous retail medical marijuana dispensaries are making a mockery of the amendment voters passed in 2000 allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana. Amendment 20 does not mention anything about dispensaries selling the drug for profit, and he argued that voters should decide at the polls whether the retail-model dispensary should be allowed to operate in Colorado.
“What’s transpiring is not what the voters voted for in 2000,” he said.
However, Corry argued that the country has a history of building an industry around a constitutional right. He believes that because the word “dispensing” is in Amendment 20, then a dispensary, in turn, should be constitutionally protected.
“What the voters did, they wanted to create a right of access to medical marijuana, they wanted it to be safe,” he said.
Federal vs. state rights
Corry contended that the federal government should “butt out” of Colorado’s business and stop raiding medical marijuana growers or dispensaries. He likened the Drug Enforcement Agency busting members in Colorado’s medical marijuana community to a cop waving someone through a red light and then giving them a ticket. A memo sent by President Barack Obama’s administration urging federal authorities not to spend resources prosecuting legal users of marijuana should prevent the DEA from raiding medical marijuana growers and users, he said.
Corry blasted Suthers for suing the federal government over the health care reform act, yet not asking the federal government to respect state rights when it comes to medical marijuana.
Suthers said that the health care reform bill and drug laws are two separate entities. He opposes the health care reform bill because Congress is attempting to regulate commercial inactivity for the first time in the nation’s history.
“Nobody’s growing crops here, nobody’s engaged in a business act, you’re sitting there on your couch at home not buying a product the government wants you to buy,” he said of the health care reform bill.
Five DU Law students interviewed separately said that Suthers made the most convincing law-related arguments. Four of them charged Corry with feeding into a mob mentality with his heated rhetoric.
“Although I agree with (Corry’s) positions, Suthers actually won this debate,” said DU Law student Trevor Burrus. “Corry didn’t discuss the issues, he turned it into a discussion on legalization.”
“I think Corry was just pandering to peoples’ emotions, he wasn’t answering any of the legal questions that were asked,” added fellow student Stephanie O’Barr. “He was pandering more to peoples’ emotions about freedom…but it’s not about that. It’s about having a safe system that is regulated.”
Corry said he was happy with the well-spirited debate. He said he occasionally worries that the outspoken outbursts from medical marijuana activists — like the comments that closed the debate — could hurt the medical marijuana cause more than help, but added that they come with the territory.
“That’s the challenge of being on my side of the issue, a lot of people are not prone to being controlled,” he said. “Marijuana can open your mind, and we have lots of open minds.”
Yesterday’s debate was the last of three marijuana-related discussions held at the DU Law School.
April 9, 2010
The Denver Daily News