Pubdate: Tue, 12 Jul 2011
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2011 Aspen Times
Author: Rick Carroll, The Aspen Times


ASPEN -- A judge on Monday rejected a 23-year-old man's plea to use
marijuana for medicinal purposes while he serves probation for a
drug-related conviction in Aspen.

Nathan Benner's attorney, Joseph Saint-Veltri of Denver, had argued
that he should be able to take marijuana to help him cope with his
ongoing shoulder pain.

Saint-Veltri pointed to Colorado's Amendment 20, passed by voters in
2000, which allows the use of medicinal marijuana. He said marijuana
is a healthier, less addictive choice for Benner to deal with his
shoulder pain than opiates, which a physician has also recommended for

"This is not an act of defiance," Saint-Veltri told Pitkin County
District Judge Gail Nichols. "There's no banner he's raising in this

Instead, Saint-Veltri said if Benner were to currently use pot, he
risks a felony conviction for violating the terms of a deferred
sentence he's serving for breaking into an Aspen pharmacy in 2009 in
an effort to steal oxycodone.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin argued against Benner's
proposed use of marijuana, based on his age and criminal history.

"Mr. Benner is not someone suffering from cancer," Mordkin said. "He's
got some shoulder pain. He's a very young man. He can suffer a little
bit ... until he gets off probation."

Mordkin noted that a person serving probation also cannot drink
alcohol. It should be no different with medical marijuana, he argued.

Saint-Veltri countered, "No one ever said alcohol is medicinal. ...
Certainly by most accounts, it's more dangerous than marijuana."

Benner's attorney also argued, "There remains a reluctance to call
marijuana medicinal," partly because of a public perception that dates
as far back as the 1936 motion picture "Reefer Madness."

"It depicted all imagined qualities marijuana has -- people turning
into aliens," he said.

Nichols indicated that her decision came down to Benner's criminal
background and the fact that marijuana dosages are not regulated,
other than that a registered patient can buy no more than 2 ounces of
pot at one time.

"If [Benner] were not on probation and did not have a history of
abuse, it would be appropriate," she said, adding that he currently
lacks the discipline to use marijuana to help curb his shoulder pain.

"You've got to learn to deal with pain in a different manner," she
said. "And there are all sorts of options. Marijuana is in accordance
with the law, but dosages aren't prescribed."

Instead, the judge suggested that Benner find another way to deal with
his pain, such as taking up yoga. 
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