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Prosecutors Drop Pot Charges Against AIDS Patient

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Colorado -- Prosecutors dropped all charges against an AIDS patient cited for possession of pot in Denver after voters approved an ordinance that legalized the plant in the city, according to the man's attorney.
Authorities continued to cite and prosecute the city's citizens under state law after Denver voters passed I-100 in November, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of pot for those age 21 and older.

The case of Damien LaGoy, an AIDS patient who was cited for private possession of a small amount of pot, was seen as a political test case that pot legalization proponents wanted to use to show what they believe to be the harmfulness of marijuana prohibition.

"We're glad they dropped the case, but at the same time the city's spent thousands of dollars to get to this point," said Brian Vicente, LaGoy's attorney. "It's a gross, gross use of taxpayer dollars."

This wasn't the first so-called I-100 test case that authorities dropped.

Prosecutors in January dropped all charges against Eric Footer, who was cited for pot possession during a traffic stop. That case, too, was going to be used as a test case.

"This is their second opportunity to defend their position in a court of law, but each time they have backed away before having their actions judged," said Mason Tvert, campaign director of the pro-legalization group SAFER, in a statement.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in January, the prosecutor in charge of the Footer case said that case was dropped because there were simply too many cases on the docket that day.

It's an explanation Tvert didn't buy, and he doesn't think that was the case with LaGoy, either.

Vicente and other legalization proponents aren't hiding that this was a political test case that would be used to bolster support for the upcoming November vote that will decide whether possession of up to an ounce of pot will be legal for those age 21 and older for all of Colorado, not just Denver.

"If voters care about individuals like Damien LaGoy, if they don't want to see them prosecuted in the future, they can decide that at the polls on Nov. 7," Vicente said.

Amendment 44, the ballot measure that would legalize pot statewide, was the result of a lively signature-collection effort that included plenty of help from CSU students.

Several students and groups, including the CSU Libertarian Party and the CSU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, collected the nearly 68,000 valid signatures needed to get the statewide measure on the ballot.

LaGoy lost 10 pounds while awaiting his case to go to trial, and now weighs 105 pounds, Vicente said.

He added: "How many people will have to suffer like he did until the will of the voters is upheld?"

Note: Weed-legalization proponents saw the court battle as a political test case.

Source: Rocky Mountain Collegian, The (CO Edu)
Author: Vimal Patel of the Rocky Mountain Collegian
Published: September 21, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Rocky Mountain Collegian
 

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