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Ex-attorney sues more Colorado Springs-area governments over marijuana bans

August 14, 2013 Updated: August 14, 2013 at 8:35 am
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photo - Bud tender Kelley Schaffer trims buds  Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at Southern Colorado Medical Marijuana indoor farm in Colorado Springs.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Bud tender Kelley Schaffer trims buds Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at Southern Colorado Medical Marijuana indoor farm in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

From defense attorney to pot baron?

An ex-lawyer from Colorado Springs has expanded his legal challenge to the city's ban on recreational marijuana sales, arguing in an amended lawsuit that a patchwork of local governments has foiled his plans for a veritable pot empire in the Pikes Peak region.

After initially filing suit against Colorado Springs and Mayor Steve Bach, Dennis James Sladek on Monday added six defendants to the list: El Paso County, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls, Monument, Woodland Park and Palmer Lake.

In his lawsuit, Sladek contends he would have opened pot businesses in each jurisdiction, had they not voted to ban the recreational pot trade.

The ambitious claim is essentially a legal requirement to sue, because, as a self-represented litigant, Sladek must establish that his rights have been abridged.

Sladek is serving a law license suspension and is barred from filing suit on behalf of anyone else.

Sladek previously told The Gazette he is concentrating on new endeavors, including the pot trade, and considers himself retired from his law practice.

The pot ban challenge was initially filed July 28, three days after the Colorado Springs City Council voted to block recreational pot stores.

The ban came despite a 51-percent majority vote for Amendment 64, which legalizes possession of small amounts of the drug, and allows municipalities to approve or opt out of recreational sales.

The lawsuit argues that the language in Amendment 64 allowing governments to block the pot trade conflicts with Sladek's constitutional right to pursue a legal business.

Bach was named as a defendant because of his public statements that he intended to veto any action by City Council that would have permitted recreational sales, Sladek said.

It's unclear what immediate effect, if any, the lawsuit will have on the legal budgets of the defendants. Many municipalities pay an annual fee to an outside organization, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRCA), to fight lawsuits on their behalf, said Monument town attorney Gary Shupp.

Whether CIRCA will represent each entity against the claims is unclear. A representative said the Denver-based nonprofit maintains a blanket no-comment policy.

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