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Jessica Peck Corry, a lawyer and Republican medical marijuana advocate, said that any system dispensing pharmaceuticals would be subject to abuse. She said the No. 1 cause of accidental death in Colorado is overdose of prescription drugs.

Mrs. Corry represented CannaMart, a medical marijuana dispensary, in a lawsuit against the city of Centennial, which had shut down the shop because it violated federal drug laws.

A district court judge ruled against the city Wednesday, saying the business was operating legally under state law.

“What we have now is a system that, with a few exceptions, operates very well,” Mrs. Corry said. “You hear patients saying, ‘I’m getting the care and services I need.’ We need to acknowledge that prescription-drug overdose is a much greater threat than medical marijuana.”

Fourteen states have approved medical marijuana. Dispensaries have begun to open in about half of them, Mr. Vicente said. Twenty other state legislatures are expected to consider similar bills in 2010. In Arizona, advocacy groups are pushing for a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2010 ballot.

“We hope to find common ground here in Colorado, but history tells us that law enforcement is bent on destroying medical marijuana,” Mr. Vicente said. “I think we’re going to have a fight on our hands.”