A man whose fight with AIDS and Hepatitis C withered his body and made him the public face of medical-marijuana patients in Colorado has died.
David “Damien” LaGoy, 53, passed away Saturday, advocates from the group Sensible Colorado announced this week.
“Damien LaGoy was pound for pound the toughest individual I have ever known,” Dan Pope, a longtime friend and caregiver for LaGoy, wrote in an e-mail. “He was very genuine in his compassion and sense of fairness, yet he could be tenacious as hell when pushed.”
In 2007 and again in 2009, LaGoy won major court battles that secured medical-marijuana patients a voice in the regulatory process and that laid the foundation for the earliest medical-marijuana dispensaries.
In both cases, LaGoy challenged the state Health Department’s adoption of rules that limited the number of patients a caregiver — a small-scale provider of medical marijuana — could serve. The limit was set at five, and LaGoy said that would have left him without a marijuana provider because he was his Pope’s sixth patient.
“If I lose my caregiver, I don’t know what I’ll do,” LaGoysaid in 2009. “I’ll have to find someone on Colfax or by the Civic Center and get it off the street.”
In both court cases, the judge ruled that Health Department officials had failed to consider public input and had adopted the patient limit arbitrarily. In his 2009 ruling on one of LaGoy’s lawsuits, Denver District Court Judge Larry Naves blasted the state for ignoring the concerns of patients, specifically citing LaGoy’s circumstances.
“How can you not consider the impact on the health of Mr. LaGoy when they changed the rules?” Navesasked the state’s attorney.
“Your honor,” the attorney responded, “I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is a temporary rule.”
“It’s not temporary for Mr. LaGoy,” Naves replied.
LaGoy was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and Hepatitis C in 1998, according to Sensible Colorado. The medical treatments for both conditions left him with severe nausea, which he used marijuana to quell so that he could eat and keep the medicines down.
A slight man, LaGoy’s weight fell below 100 pounds at one point. With the help of marijuana, it reboundedto 110 pounds, he told The Post last year.
He began marijuana advocacy in 2006, Sensible Colorado said, after he was arrested for marijuana possession in Denver despite the passage of a ballot initiative in the city to decriminalize possession of the substance.
His victories in the two medical-marijuana cases, for a time, allowed caregivers to serve an unlimited number of patients. It also provided the legal foundation for the state’s first medical-marijuana dispensaries, which operated, essentially, as large-scale caregivers.
After dispensaries became entrenched in the state, lawmakers created new laws that legitimized them but also separated them from the operation of caregivers, upon which lawmakers placed a new five-patient limit in most circumstances. LaGoy shifted his advocacy to condemn efforts by the federal government to shut down dispensaries.
Last year, Sensible Colorado gave LaGoy its first ever “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
“He was a friend; he was a freedom fighter, and he changed Colorado forever,” Brian Vicente, the executive director of Sensible Colorado, said in a statement. “He will be missed.”
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/john_ingold