Colorado Legislature Must Have|Been Smoking Something

     DENVER (CN) – Colorado voters have legalized recreational pot smoking, but this week the governor signed an unconstitutional bill that prohibits marijuana-centric magazines from being sold except from under the counter, three magazines claim in court.
     Plaintiffs – High Times Magazine, The Daily Doobie and The Hemp Connoisseur – sued Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper, in Federal Court.
     The magazines challenge the constitutionality of House Bill 13-1317 , which Hickenlooper signed into law on Tuesday.
     The bill creates a “regulatory framework” for retail sales of marijuana, which voters approved for recreational use by popular referendum last fall.
     “Plaintiffs take issue with one section of HB 13-1317, specifically 12-43.4-202 – Powers and duties of state licensing authority on regulating marijuana – Section (3)(c)(II): Requiring 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,” the complaint states.
     The publishers, who point out that they “do not sell or promote obscenity,” challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds.
     “By imposing these content-based restraints on the speech by prohibiting plaintiffs’ from freely distributing and publicizing their message, defendants are depriving plaintiffs of their rights to free speech and the public’s right to hear a speaker, which are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and were protected under law until this statute went into effect,” the complaint states.
     It adds: “Amendment 64 was passed by Colorado voters who intended to ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol.’ However, publications ‘whose primary focus is alcohol or alcohol businesses’ are not regulated or penalized the same way as plaintiffs’ marijuana-focused publications.
     “This bill specifically targets the content of plaintiffs’ speech: marijuana.
     “Plaintiffs’ speech is largely and often political, focusing on new and changing marijuana legalization and legislation.
     “The restrictions in the distribution of plaintiffs’ publications unduly restrict and inhibit access to this political speech by limiting plaintiffs’ marijuana-based publications to be openly displayed only in certain locations and hidden in others.
     “These restrictions unduly restrict and limit plaintiffs’ speech based on its content and are not narrowly tailored to serve any compelling government interest. …
     “The enforcement and operation of defendants’ restraint on plaintiffs’ speech violates the First amendment rights of the plaintiffs, both to speak and listen to ideas surrounding matters of public concern, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. …
     “Plaintiffs and the public at large who desire to engage in a protected exchange of ideas, will suffer irreparable harm if defendants are not enjoined from unduly restricting plaintiffs’ speech.”
     The publishers want enforcement of the under-the-counter clause enjoined.
     They are represented by David Lane with Killmer, Lane & Newman.

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