Passing by a 53.5% ? 46.5% margin, Amendment 20 became law on June 1, 2001, only after Gov. Bill Owens (R) and State Attorney General Ken Salazar (current U.S. Senator) attempted to nullify the will of the voters and urged federal authorities to prosecute anybody who sells, distributes or grows marijuana, even if they qualify for medical use of the drug under the voter-approved state program. Fortunately, there were a few brave souls that stood up and did what was right.
In February of 2003, I was diagnosed with a non-specific form of Muscular Dystrophy. ?Holy shit! Muscular Dystrophy, what the fuck is that?? I asked myself. But then I thought, ?It?s cool, I?ve been here before.? I was a cancer survivor. I had beaten the melanoma monster a few years earlier, so I knew what I needed: marijuana. And lots of it!
I worked with my doctor and was granted a State of Colorado Medical Marijuana permit. Now I could acquire, possess, produce, use, and transport all the marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia that I determined to be medically necessary. Being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I appointed Thomas Lawrence of the Colorado Compassion Club (CCC) as my caregiver and obtained a state medical marijuana permit designating him as my lawful caregiver. Life seemed to be getting better. I was no longer suffering from the muscle spasms and chronic pain, and my overall mood was very much improved. Little did I know that my middle finger was going to be working hard in a few short months!
DEA Flouts Will of People, Crashes My Garden
Early one morning in the spring of 2004 when I sat down to read the paper, the headline ?Feds Seize 900 Pot Plants? jumped out at me. Later on I got a call from Thomas. ?We were raided last night and your permit was confiscated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.?
Now, I had been told a couple of times before that I had a life threatening disease, but this was worse, much worse. The DEAsses had my name, address, and social security number! My fear quickly turned to anger, and it was then that I decided to wave my middle finger in the direction of the North Metro Drug Task Force (NMDTF) and the U.S. DEA.
Being that no state laws had been broken, no one from the CCC was arrested. However, they did have thousands of dollars of personal property confiscated, and their patients were now without any medicine. I was one of those patients! Of course the local news media was all over the story, and since I had recently read an article entitled How to Use the Media, I decided to do just that. I arranged an on-camera interview with 9NEWS in what was left of the CCC grow room, and expressed my extreme displeasure with the actions of the local and federal authorities. I was now ?out? and the freedom I felt was exhilarating.
Naturally, I decided to take it one step further. I placed a phone call to the sergeant in charge of the NMDTF and asked that he see to it that my medicine be returned immediately to me per Amendment 20 of the Colorado State Constitution. Although he was a public servant sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Colorado, he was unable to comply with my request ? not to mention the state law! However, he did manage to have one of his coworkers call me a few weeks later to ask me a series of intrusive questions, most of which I politely refused to answer. The complete and total lack of empathy exhibited to me was shocking and disgusting.
On June 7, 2005 I was asked by 9NEWS if I would be interested in doing another interview, this time regarding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Gonzalez vs. Raich case which had been decided the previous day. The anchor doing the interview asked that I bring along some of my medicine for the interview; unfortunately, I had vaporized the last of it commiserating the Supreme Court decision the day before. So I put a call into my good friend at QTπ (QT-pi) Gardens and made arrangements for him to meet me in the parking lot of 9NEWS with some replacement meds. Of course, the thought of displaying my medicine on the evening news as a peaceful protest against the Raich ruling had me very excited.
During the interview I was asked if the decision would alter my medicinal use, and I said, ?If the Federal Government feels the need to kick in my front door for an ounce of marijuana, I am prepared to deal with that.? Later on, I would be amazed to find out how many people watched the news that night! I received nothing but positive feedback from friends and strangers alike. Even the grocery store manager where I shop recognized me and gave me her support.
Meet The Caregivers
With only 714 patients registered in the state medical marijuana registry, Colorado has not seen the proliferation of cannabis dispensaries that have appeared in states like California. However, a few brave people are openly providing patients with their much-needed medicine. One such person is Ken Gorman.
Although Ken?s political objective is the complete legalization of marijuana, he certainly doesn?t mind growing and providing marijuana to more than seventy patients, many of whom are unable to grow for themselves due to severe disabilities. Even with the authorities wasting a great deal of taxpayer money each fall monitoring Ken?s backyard garden with helicopters hovering overhead, he has yet to have any problems with law enforcement. Spider mites and burglary rip-offs seem to be the biggest issues he faces. Having organized and put on the annual 420 Festival in Denver for the last thirteen years, Ken is no stranger to law enforcement.
The festival, which happens every April 20th at 4:20 in the afternoon on the steps of the state capitol, has continued to grow over the years with attendance reaching the thousands. Starting around 4:00 pm, Ken begins throwing bags of marijuana to the insatiable crowd, while whipping them into a fevered frenzy with his speeches about marijuana legalization, which echo over the clouds of smoke. Culminating with the countdown to 4:20, a collective hit is deeply inhaled by the peaceful throng, celebrating their pursuit of happiness however tenuous it may be.
During a recent visit to Ken?s place I met caregiver John, and with a huge bag of his freshly vaporized ?Lemon Skunk? in my hand and Neil Young?s Cinnamon Girl playing softly in the background, we sat down and got to know one another. John is a caregiver for his girl friend who suffers from Fibromyalgia, and who has been a registered patient for the past two years. By using topical THC lotions and incorporating cannabis into her restricted diet, she finds great relief for her symptoms.
Although the state law says that a patient or caregiver may grow and possess any amount that they determine to be medically necessary (with an affirmative defense clause for quantities in excess of six plants and two ounces of usable marijuana), John keeps his garden to just four plants. Even with the local county sheriff having paid a visit, John has had no problems. He attributes this to the fact that he strives to keep a very low profile when it comes to growing. However, he says he would be willing to expand his garden for other patients registered with the state. And believe me, his Lemon Skunk strain would be a welcome addition to any patient?s medicine cabinet!
Another notable provider of mile high medicine is QTπ Gardens. Having recently had the pleasure of touring QT?s garden, I must say that he is growing some of the healthiest and most potent marijuana that this patient has ever seen. His ?El Jefe? (The Boss) indica strain is well suited for my specific medicinal use due to its high potency (my doctor insists that I vaporize only the highest potency cannabis) and muscle spasm-relieving qualities. Serving numerous patients in Colorado, QT also chooses to keep his garden under the affirmative defense limit of six plants per registered patient, and like John has not had any problems with law enforcement.
Dana May is a citizen of Colorado who suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and is a registered medical marijuana patient. However, he has had problems with law enforcement. Dozens of DEA agents, working in conjunction with the Aurora Police Department, stormed his house in full riot gear with guns drawn, terrifying May and his family. Presenting the intruders with his State of Colorado Medical Marijuana permit, May was told ?we?re DEA, we don?t follow Colorado?s Constitution.? They then proceeded to trash his entire house and found, behind two locked doors in his basement, a very modest marijuana garden. Confiscating his medicine, plants and growing equipment, the thieves left a very frightened man with nothing to treat his severe pain.
No charges at the state or federal level were filed against May in this home invasion robbery. However, after threatening a lawsuit against the city of Aurora, the D.E.A. (not wanting to sour the relationship with local authorities who sell out the very citizens and laws they are sworn to uphold) was persuaded to return his growing equipment. Dana?s garden is once again up and running at a non-disclosed location.
Don Nord is another victim of a taxpayer funded home invasion robbery. On October 13, 2003 eight local law enforcement officers and one DEA agent raided the 57-year-old man?s home and seized three marijuana plants, five ounces of marijuana, growing equipment and paraphernalia. State charges were brought against him for possession of more than two ounces, but a judge dismissed this charge based on the affirmative defense clause in Amendment 20, and ordered that all of his property be returned, with the exception of three ounces of marijuana.
On December 23, 2003 local authorities returned all of his property with the exception of the marijuana. This was not acceptable to Nord, who then instructed his attorney to file contempt of court charges against the task force members. The judge agreed and once again issued a court order instructing the thieves to return Don?s medicine. The task force argued that the single DEA agent had deputized them and that they were acting under federal law. The case was moved up to the federal level, where in July of 2005 (one month after the Gonzalez vs. Raich decision) U.S. District Judge Walker Miller ruled that the charges be dropped because federal law trumped state law.
Give ?em a Footer, and They?ll Take a Mile ? High Law to Court!
The recent passage of Initiative I-100 ? which legalizes possession of one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over in the city of Denver ? combined with the growing number of mountain communities that are passing ?lowest priority? legislation, demonstrate the fact that the majority of registered voters in Colorado are in favor of marijuana legalization. Although state law trumps I-100, the recent case of Eric Footer could become a landmark case.
The 39-year-old male was cited in Denver for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana the day after I-100 passed and became law. He was facing an uphill legal battle, but Mr. Footer and his attorneys got lucky in that the charges were dropped on January 18th. There is no doubt that there will be more cases like this going through the court system in the future, but at what point will the people demand that both state and federal government honor the will of the voters and quit wasting the taxpayer?s money ? circumventing the majority rule? Even if someone is not in favor of the marijuana legalization movement, they should be very concerned about a government that ignores the will of the voters.