From the Rocky Mountain News
September 20, 1998
By Guy Kelly, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
STAGE IS SET FOR SHOWDOWN ON USE OF POT
Court to hear manís claim he has compelling medical need to
The law says marijuana is a crime, but to Michael Domangue,
And now the 50-year-old Grand County man will get to take
his case to a jury.
Next month Domangue may become the first person in Colorado
to argue in court that his medical condition justifies smoking
pot, even though itís against the law.
"Nobody has ever jumped over this hurdle with a medical
marijuana case before," said Domangueís attorney, Warren
Colorado doesnít have a law exempting the medical use of
marijuana from criminal prosecution, but it does have a
"choice of evils" defense.
Generally, it allows a defendant to argue that he was
justified in breaking the law to prevent a greater injury.
Domangue claims he smokes pot to ease a variety of mental and
emotional problems stemming from his military service in
Similar cases are percolating in courts nationwide as part
of a movement to allow the use of marijuana to ease conditions
ranging from glaucoma to arthritis, said Tanya Kangas,
director of litigation for the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known by the
"The legal precedent thatís important to NORML is that a
defendant ought to be able to tell a jury why he or she smokes
marijuana," Kangas said. "Then the jury can decide whether
that information is important to that particular
NORML and several other groups have a "Medical Marijuana
Support Fund" that helps with expenses in such cases,
including Domangueís. "We are definitely seeing a wave of
these cases going through the courts," Kangas said.
Earlier this month, Edson, who serves on NORMLís legal
committee, argued in Grand County District Court that Domangue
ought to be allowed to tell a jury that he smokes marijuana
for medicinal reasons.
Although prosecutors objected, Judge Richard P. Doucette
agreed to allow the "choice of evils" defense, setting the
stage for a perhaps precendent-setting trial in Hot Sulphur
Springs beginning Oct. 14.
Prosecutor Craig Henderson of the Grand County district
attorneyís office will now have to prove that not only did
Domangue violate laws against possessing and cultivating
marijuana, but also that he canít use his medical condition as
a justification for breaking the law.
Henderson wonít talk about the case, but he argued in a
motion that allowing the defense in this case is a waste of
time that will confuse the issue and mislead the jury.
This wonít be the first time Domangue has been involved
with the law over marijuana, or that he has made a case for
what he believes are the plantís medicinal powers.
In March 1995, he founded the Sacred Herb Church in Boulder
to promote marijuana, and he has long been a proponent of
exploring new legal territory in pot cases, Edson said.
Domangue has been charged with several minor marijuana
offenses in the past few years. They were either dismissed or
they resulted in a fine or probation.
Edson said Domangue in 1984 attacked police officers
because he thought they were Viet Cong. He was found not
guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to the Colorado
State Hospital in Pueblo until he was discharged in
Domangue declined to discuss the current case. Records show
he was sitting in his mobile home last October when Grand
County deputies in the trailer park on other business noticed
a pot plant in his window.
Domangue invited them in and when he was asked if he knew
why they were there, he pointed at the window and said, "Itís
probably that plant there."
There was also a wood plate on the coffee table in front of
Domanague with marijuana seeds and "a little
Heís been charged with possession of less than one ounce of
marijuana. But heís also been charged with cultivation, a
felony punishable by six years in prison. He is now free on
The wall of the trailer had a cloth picture with the words
"Why Hemp," and his reading material included Marijuana
Growers Handbook and Marijuana Botany.
Domangue also said he had a letter from his doctor saying
he smoked marijuana for medical purposes.
Dr. Ray Leidig of the Mental Health Center of Boulder
County, who once treated Domangue, testified in his behalf at
the recent hearing.
Leidig said the use of marijuana reduces anxiety in people
who suffer delusions or hallucinations.
He declined to discuss Domangue specifically, but he and
Edson said Domangue has a long and troubled legal and medical
Edson said Domangue is a Vietnam veteran who is suffering
from post traumatic stress disorder and who smokes to ease the
symptoms of psychiatric problems.
Domangue has taken a prescription drug called Marinol, a
synthetic marijuana, but Edson said the medication is too
intense and long-lasting for Domangue.
Responds to Nevada Doctor Who Said "Let them eat
The Single Most Damning Article On Medical Marijuana Fiasco I
Have Ever Read Ė Without Intending To Be
One of the elements of the "choice of evils" defense
requires that the defendant show that other reasonable
alternatives were pursued but didnít work. -----