What good is a state constitutional amendment regarding a patient’s right to use medical cannabis, when the amendment does not provide any constitutional rights? This is exactly the outcome this past week in the Beinor vs. Industrial Claim Appeals Office and Service Group Inc., a Colorado appellate court case on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the Beinor case, therefore upholding the appellate courts determination that the Colorado State constitution does not give a constitutional right to cannabis patients to use medical marijuana. The only protection granted by the constitution is protection from criminal punishment for using marijuana.
Beinor is a medical-marijuana patient who was fired from his job for testing positive to marijuana. Beinor filed for unemployment claiming he should be eligible since his marijuana use was protected under the state's constitution. The position of the State Attorney General John Suthers was affirmed by the appellate court, in essence Amendment 20 — the medical-marijuana constitutional provision — only creates exemptions to criminal law.
Activists were appalled by the courts failure to address this issue, hoping that the Supreme Court would affirm a patient’s right to use marijuana. The Supreme Court also
declined to hear the case of a man whom the Court of Appeals ruled should not be allowed to use medical marijuana while on probation because marijuana is illegal federally.
Brian Vicente, executive director of the marijuana-advocacy group Sensible Colorado commented on the courts denials by stating, "I view it as callous and cold-hearted.”
Activists fear that these two denials will create little or no protection for medical-marijuana patients under Colorado law. Besides fearing they can lose their jobs for medical-marijuana use, many assume they can be kicked out of housing or lose custody of their children in child-welfare cases.
Even of greater concern is that the Supreme Court's decisions also mean that state laws allowing communities to ban dispensaries will likely be upheld.