The top Drug Enforcement Administration officer in Denver says marijuana dispensaries that are popping up across the state are illegal.
Federal agents raided the home of a marijuana grower who spoke publicly about his large and profitable operation in his basement. DEA agents arrested Chris Bartkowicz at his Highlands Ranch home Friday during a raid in which agents seized dozens of marijuana plants.
Denver DEA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin says marijuana is not medicine and is still illegal under federal law. Sweetin said he’s been gathering information on dispensary owners and their operations for months.
“Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law,” Sweetin told The Denver Post. “The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody. They’re violating federal law; they’re at risk of arrest and imprisonment.”
The raids and Sweetin’s comments come nearly four months after Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden sent a memo advising federal law enforcement that people using medical marijuana in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws” not be targeted for arrest.
Sweetin said the memo deals with medical marijuana patients and small-scale growers, not commercial enterprises. Guidelines in the memo call for examining the number of plants and the profits that exceed what state law intended in determining which ones are illegal, Sweetin said.
Parts of an interview Bartkowicz gave to Denver station KUSA-TV for a story that was to air Friday night were published in The Denver Post.
“I’m definitely living the dream now,” he said before his arrest of his marijuana growing operation that he hoped would turn profits in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Bartkowicz would remain in custody through the holiday weekend before prosecutors decide Tuesday whether to file charges.
Meanwhile, about 95 miles south of Denver, jurors in Pueblo Saturday were deliberating a case that could clarify limits on how much medical marijuana users could grow.
Prosecutors Anthony Marzavas and Steve Jones argued that 55-year-old Thomas Sexton used language in the state’s constitutional amendment to manipulate the system to get more plants than needed. Sexton faces marijuana cultivation and possession charges.
“That’s as simple as it gets,” Jones said during closing statements Friday. “This is not a movement, it’s a trial, and the law still exists that makes this a felony.”
Police seized 128 marijuana plants when Sexton’s home was raided in August 2007. Colorado’s voter-approved medical marijuana law allows users to have 2 ounces of marijuana or six plants, but allows more under certain circumstances.
During his trial, Sexton told the jury that he uses medical marijuana because of pain caused by metal plates and braces screwed into his right femur following a 2004 skiing accident. Sexton said he also provided marijuana for six patients, saying he and two others had a doctor’s recommendation for additional marijuana.
Two of those patients testified that they eat their marijuana or distill the plant in oil or butter and use it as a topical solution, requiring more plants than if they smoked it.
Both cases come as medical marijuana proponents call for lawmakers to establish clear rules for dispensaries.
“All we’re trying to do is follow the rules,” said Matt Brown, executive director of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation.
– Article from The Denver Post.