Aspen judge says man can’t use pot for pain
ASPEN – A judge ruled Monday that a local man convicted of a felony drug charge cannot use marijuana for medicinal purposes, although he has a state registry card allowing him to do so.
Judge James Boyd took up the topic during a sentencing hearing in Pitkin County District Court in Aspen for Keith Timothy Pfeiffer, who pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to attempted distribution of cocaine.
Boyd said the issue is a “troubling one for the court,” and his remark and ruling come at a time when judges across Colorado are grappling with the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. An amendment to the state constitution permits marijuana to be used for certain medical purposes.
But Boyd noted that “no matter what the state of Colorado has decided, the United States of America says that it is not legal.”
Even so, Boyd said he would entertain a motion arguing that Pfeiffer be allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, along with recommendations from a doctor who “can add the diagnosis it [medical marijuana] goes with.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Pototsky encouraged Boyd to not allow Pfeiffer, who has a number of physical ailments, to use marijuana for medical purposes as part of his probation. It is standard procedure that those who are given probation are not permitted to use illegal drugs or alcohol; medications they are allowed to use must be taken at prescribed doses.
Pfeiffer has been on the state’s medical marijuana registry since December, his attorney, John Van Ness, told the judge. Pfeiffer uses marijuana to cope with pain from hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Both of his hips were replaced as well, Van Ness said.
“There are some problems, including pain, that doctors say are helped by medical marijuana,” Van Ness told the judge.
He added: “I don’t want to take that away from him.”
Yet Pototsky argued that Pfeiffer “hides behind his illness.”
“I don’t see why he should have his medical marijuana certificate,” Pototsky told the judge.
Pfeiffer, 57, was arrested Sept. 2 for alleged cocaine distribution and cultivation of marijuana. He was apprehended at his Lazy Glen trailer home, located between Old Snowmass and Basalt, by a Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputy and agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team.
Earlier this year Pfeiffer pleaded guilty to the felony count of attempted distribution of cocaine. Five other charges, including marijuana cultivation, were dismissed by the district attorney’s office as part of a plea agreement.
Prosecutors said Pfeiffer had 51 pot plants growing inside his home, along with half an ounce of cocaine. Van Ness disputed the number of marijuana plants.
“It’s not clear if there were 51 because some of them were tomato plants,” he said. “But there were 20 to 30 plants … but there’s no evidence he was dealing to anyone.”
Pfeiffer said he grew the plants to help him deal with pain.
“That’s why I was growing plants,” he told Boyd.
Van Ness also contended that the cocaine found at Pfeiffer’s residence belonged to his roommate.
After the hearing, Van Ness said he did not know if he would file a motion seeking to allow Pfeiffer to use medical marijuana.
Pfeiffer was sentenced to two years supervised probation, and must submit to an evaluation for drug and alcohol abuse. He also is not allowed to use drugs or alcohol during the period of his probation, but may use prescription drugs, the exception being marijuana.
Pfeiffer also was sentenced to 60 days in jail. However, he was given credit for the 19 days he served at the time of the arrest; the remaining 41 days were suspended upon the successful completion of his probation.