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Judge strikes down Colorado rule restricting marijuana magazine sales

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a provision of Colorado's marijuana legalization law that would have required stores to sell cannabis-themed publications behind the counter, like pornography.

Magazine publishers and bookstores had filed a lawsuit against the state last week, arguing that the measure, passed by the Colorado legislature this spring, should be overturned before it takes effect on July 1.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch's ruling came a day after the state attorney general's office, which would have defended the measure in court, agreed with the plaintiffs that it was unconstitutional.

"The defendants have conceded the invalidity of the code provision cited in the complaints," Matsch said in his order granting a permanent injunction.

Colorado voters approved the recreational use of marijuana by adults last fall and charged lawmakers with setting up regulations to sell and tax cannabis products.

Supporters of the behind-the-counter provision said it was aimed at reducing juveniles' exposure to the material.

But publishers of several marijuana publications, along with local booksellers and newsstands, sued to block it, noting that such restrictions were not in place while marijuana use was illegal.

The Colorado Department of Revenue, which is setting up the law's regulatory framework, last week announced it would not enforce the rule.

This week Attorney General John Suthers joined the plaintiffs in a motion asking that the measure be invalidated.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the bookstores, applauded Suther's action.

"We commend the state for agreeing to stop this suppression of ideas before it started," he said. "All people have the right to read and share their ideas free of government interference."

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said lawmakers were warned during the legislative debate that such a restriction could not withstand a legal challenge.

"The idea that stores can prominently display magazines touting the joys of drinking wine and smoking cigars, yet banish those that discuss a far safer substance to behind the counter, is absolutely absurd," Tvert said. "It is time for our elected leaders to get over their reefer madness."

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Xavier Briand)

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