Medical pot user, 47, with AIDS sues state
Coloradan seeks to expand access to legal providers
Damien LaGoy takes 11 medications for AIDS and hepatitis C.
By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, Rocky Mountain News
June 23, 2007
An AIDS patient who says he needs to smoke marijuana every day to ease nausea from his medications is suing the state of Colorado to expand access to marijuana providers. "My medicines are really devastating. The only thing that soothes the nausea is medical marijuana," said Damien LaGoy, 47, of Denver, who is suing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and hepatitis C a decade later. LaGoy said his cocktail of 11 medications triggers nausea that is as bad as "the worst case of the flu or food poisoning."
LaGoy is one of 1,350 users of medical marijuana registered with the state, according to Brian Vicente, head of Sensible Colorado, a group that promotes medical marijuana.
But LaGoy says it's a struggle to get it. He and Vicente say Colorado health department leaders met secretly in 2004 and decided to limit providers of medical marijuana to five patients at a time. LaGoy said he found a registered provider, also called a caretaker, only to be turned away because the provider already had a full slate of patients.
"The caregiver is the person who grows the plants and provides them to you legally and safely," LaGoy said.
He said he has not been able to find legal caretakers and has had to rely on friends who have supplied him with illegal pot or forgo his medications to prevent the nausea.
"There's no way to find out who these caregivers are," LaGoy said. "You can't open the Yellow Pages like you find a doctor or dentist."
Lori Maldonado, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, declined to discuss LaGoy's charge that the department violated Colorado's open meetings law by conducting a closed meeting in 2004 to establish policy about access to medical marijuana providers.
Vicente, who is LaGoy's lawyer, filed suit Friday on behalf of his client in Denver District Court and said he's seeking a change in Colorado's policy. Voters approved the use of medical pot in 2000.
"The intent is to allow sick people to get the medicine they need," Vicente said. "We would like to meet with them (the state) and have them drop this arbitrary cap."