Judge Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2006. A Colorado native, Gorsuch might be expected to have a strong opinion on legal marijuana. After all recreational marijuana has been legal in his home state since 2012.
His record is fairly consistent, at least according to a report in the International Business Times. In the cases the IBT reviewed, marijuana was involved in three and in all three Judge Gorsuch based his stand on both the letter and, later, the spirit, of federal law.
In 2010 Judge Gorsuch ruled against a couple being tried on charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The couple sought a dismissal of the charges on religious grounds. Gorsuch would have none of it, saying the couple’s beliefs were “not religious but secular.”
In a second case in 2013, Gorsuch ruled that a police officer accused of fatally tasering a man resisting an arrest on marijuana charges had acted properly.
In a his most recent decision, in 2015, Judge Gorsuch ruled that owners of a Colorado dispensary must turn over tax data to the IRS despite the owners’ fears of incriminating themselves because federal law continues to make marijuana illegal. He agreed with the IRS that because the Department of Justice did not generally prosecute cases such as this, the owners should provide the IRS with the requested information.
How that last ruling might play out in a Justice Department run by marijuana foe Jeff Sessions is a matter of speculation. If Sessions is ultimately confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General and rescinds the department’s current “look the other way” policy, dispensary owners in a similar situation may be incriminating themselves. Of course, it is also possible that under Sessions there would be no legal dispensaries, medical or otherwise, in the United States, so the issue would be moot.
Colorado Data: Fresh Report Looks at Cannabis Health Effects, Trends
Monitoring potential public-health outcomes was a top priority for state health officials after Colorado implemented its recreational marijuana law in 2014.
Three years into regulated sales of recreational cannabis, the Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee says calls to poison control and marijuana-related emergency room visits are down, even though overall consumption of pot remains steady — signs that existing policy and education efforts may be working.
“I think that speaks to a learning effect,” Mike Van Dyke, chief of Colorado’s Environmental Epidemiology, Occupational Health and Toxicology branch, said referring to the decline in ER visits and poison center calls. “The public is really learning the message, if not from us, from their own experience.”
Van Dyke is chairman of the 14-member committee, which on Tuesday released its second batch of data around the public health effects of marijuana in Colorado. The first report, released in January 2015 by a panel of doctors, scientists and public health officials, contained what state officials described as “baseline data.”
“We are doing our best to study this closely and monitor what’s going on,” he said. “While maybe not apparent from this report, we are taking this evidence base that we’re developing, and we are using it to develop prevention campaigns, education campaigns. We are doing our best to implement an evidence-based policy.
Read more at The Cannabist.