Sunday, June 9, 2013

Colorado makes the right call in snuffing marijuana magazine law

Colorado officials correctly surmised a new law requiring marijuana magazines to be hidden away is unconstitutional.

Colorado's bureaucracy appears to have exhaled with Thursday's declaration that a law requiring marijuana magazines to be regulated like pornography is unconstitutional.

The provision of law in question was tucked into a larger bill passed this year regulating marijuana, legislation that contained many sensible and needed regulations on the sale of recreational pot, which voters approved last year.

We supported the overall bill.

But a fly in this ointment was a requirement in the bill that "magazines whose primary focus is marijuana or marijuana businesses are only sold in retail marijuana stores or behind the counter in establishments where persons under twenty-one years of age are present."

Medicinal marijuana
That's right. Magazines like High Times that were openly available in bookstores, convenience stores and other businesses prior to the law were now to be treated like pornography -- sold only in specialty stores or behind the counter at other stores. (And who would decide whether a magazine's "primary focus" is marijuana or pot businesses?)

The government can regulate the time, place and manner of free speech if there is compelling governmental interest, but it can't just bar minors from being able to look at or purchase certain publications unless we're talking about obscenity.

We said when the law was passed that it was not only dumb but obviously unconstitutional, and it didn't take long for attorneys representing pot-themed publications and booksellers to challenge the law in federal court on First Amendment grounds.

The intent of the law no doubt was to keep marijuana-themed publications out of the hands of impressionable young people, lest they be tempted to try pot before turning 21.

But as Mark Silverstein, legal director of the Colorado ACLU pointed out to Westword magazine, as written, the law actually could have been applied to publications aimed at discouraging marijuana use also.

In any case, though, did the state really want to be publicly bested in court by High Times, The Daily Doobie and Hemp Connoiseur?

Obviously not, as the state Thursday said it would ask that the case be dismissed because of "mootness."

The Marijuana Enforcement Division itself declared the law unconstitutional, an appraisement shared by Attorney General John Suthers. The state Thursday issued an emergency rule barring enforcement of the regulation, flatly acknowledging "such a requirement would violate the United States Constitution, the Colorado Constitution and (state law)."

Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for Suthers, stated the painfully obvious. "We support the laudable goal of keeping retail marijuana out of the hands of those under 21, but that has to be consistent with the Constitution," she said.

We're glad to see Suthers throwing dirt over this turkey.

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

Source: The Denver Post


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