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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Court of Appeals on Amendment 64 applying retroactively: 'We agree'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:13 PM

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Ruling in the case of a woman who was previously convicted of several drug-related crimes, including marijuana, the Colorado Court of Appeals today said that the cannabis-related charge should not apply.

"Defendant contends that Amendment 64 should be applied retroactively and that her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated," reads the unanimous opinion authored by Judge Gale T. Miller, embedded below, which also upheld a charge related to methamphetamine. "We agree."

The court continues:

"In general, when construing a constitutional amendment, unless its terms clearly show intent that the amendment be retroactively applied, 'we presume the amendment has prospective application only.' ... Here, the language of Amendment 64 does not clearly express an intent for retroactive application of section 16(3)(a)," the opinion says. "The general presumption of prospective application, however, is subject to a doctrine established by our General Assembly and supreme court enabling a defendant to benefit retroactively from a significant change in the law."

It's not clear how many will be impacted by the court's ruling. Part of the reasoning is date-based, meaning not just anybody with a prior conviction is affected. Miller writes that "because defendant's convictions were pending appeal when Amendment 64 became effective on December 10, 2012, her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and less than one ounce of marijuana must be reversed and vacated." 

But Denver attorney and amendment co-author Brian Vicente told the Denver Post that it's a positive either way:

"It's promising that the appellate court is reflecting the reality that we have passed two constitutional measures allowing the use of marijuana," he said, "and we need to stop the criminalization of people who act within these laws."

Colorado Court of Appeals ruling by Bryce Crawford

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