A major legal test for medical marijuana is under way in Arapahoe County District Court which could decide how much control local governments have over allowing pot dispensaries to operate.
The case involves one dispensary in Centennial which the city said violated federal and local laws, and ordered it shut down.
Centennial says CannaMart was operating in violation of city zoning and land ordinances, and sent a cease-and-desist order after about 7 weeks of operation.
"How could they do this? They granted us a business license not only is it a constitutional right of these patients to choose their caregiver and their medicine where they want it," owner Stan Zizlas asked.
His lawyers call this a test case for the entire state on Amendment 20, which voters approved to change the Colorado constitution allowing medical marijuana back in 2000.
"What we hope to come out of this, is that local governments who have a tremendous amount of power will see that the constitutional rights of those citizens living within those jurisdictions trump even (the dispensaries') rights," said Jessica Corry, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.
But with an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries in recent months, the case is also a test for many cities that have tried to put a stop to the growth until the state decides how to regulate the industry.
"It will also dictate what local governments can do with regard to regulation and placement or moratoriums and bans of medical marijuana in their own municipalities," said plaintiffs' attorney Bob Hoban.
One of the patients in this case says he's severely disabled and has no other options since he is now homeless. Shannon Mosher says he feels his rights are being taken away.
Attorneys for Centennial say patients have other options to get medical marijuana.
A ruling on the temporary injunction for CannaMart, which would allow them to reopen, could come in the next few weeks, but the entire case could take up to a year to decide.
Both sides will be back in court next Wednesday morning.
December 18, 2009