Going Rogue: DEA Style

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Huffington Post by Jessica Corry

It takes a lot to get some of the state’s most conservative lawmakers on board with a Democratic Congressman from the People’s Republic of Boulder. But that’s just what happened this week.

The unifying cause? None other than Colorado’s hot button headline-grabbing medical marijuana debate. In coming together, however, rabble-rousers did so to draw awareness to a much more important cause: telling the federal government to butt out of our legislative process and local communities. On Monday, national media, including the New York Times, started taking note.
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DEA Backs Down After Threatening Colorado Dispensaries

You can read the entire post here.

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Jeffrey Sweetin of the DEA’s Denver office on Saturday Feb. 13:

“Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law,” he said. “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.” [Denver Post]

Jeff Sweetin on Tuesday, Feb. 16:

“We are not declaring war on dispensaries,” he says — though he adds with a laugh, “If we were declaring war on dispensaries, they would not be hard to find. You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting thirty of them.”

Sweetin makes note of the fact that the DEA hasn’t ever shut down a Colorado dispensary, and the agency doesn’t plan on doing so unless there are aggravating factors involved — like violence, ties to drug cartels or distribution to children.

It sounds an awful lot like Sweetin’s comments over the weekend may have resulted in somebody important telling him to calm the hell down. What goes on behind the scenes with this stuff is a mystery to me, but I doubt Sweetin figured out on his own that those nasty comments about raiding dispensaries weren’t playing well in the press. I’d prefer to think maybe he got a quick phone call from Washington.

The DOJ’s “official” policy of respecting state medical marijuana laws is hardly written in stone, leaving more than enough room for a nut like Sweetin to make a big mess provided that nobody yanks his leash. But if one thing is clear about medical marijuana policy under Obama, it’s that they have no interest in doing battle with the 80% of Americans who support it. This latest episode isn’t the first time one of the President’s drug warriors has back-pedaled after making a stupid public comment about medical marijuana. There are new rules in place, and while they still leave much to be desired, it’s important to appreciate the extent to which the old smash and grab medical marijuana policy has been put in check.

The point here isn’t that Obama loves medical marijuana, or that the DEA can now be counted on to behave itself. Politicians and drug war soldiers don’t change overnight, but the mere expectation that the raids have ended can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy when the media and the public generally believe such activity is now illegal in addition to being unpopular. Imagine trying to convict a medical marijuana defendant in federal court in the current political climate. If you lose, the Dept. of Justice will look impotent during a period of surging marijuana entrepreneurship, and if you win, Obama will get skewered in the press.

So if rogue DEA officials still feel compelled to go around making angry threats in the newspaper, I say bring it on. The war on medical marijuana gets less popular every time they open their mouths.

~ And from the Colorado Independent:

“Friday’s Colorado pot-raiding DEA agent Sweetin sweetened up by Sunday”

Has someone spoken with Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Jeff Sweetin, the man behind Friday’s high profile pot raid in Highlands Ranch? Someone like maybe Attorney General Eric Holder, who sets the policy for federal police agencies? Somebody said something because in the course of two short weekend days, Sweetin went from all agro anti-pot super agent to thoughtful law enforcement officer.

Kinder gentler Sunday Sweetin told the Associated Press that even though he doesn’t believe dispensaries are genuinely legal, he’s not going be going “door to door” investigating them, because there are simply too many.

“It’s up to the state to decide what to do about them and lawmakers are trying to decide how to do that,” he told the AP. “I have to make sure that I’m not trying to become the enforcer and the regulator of medical marijuana because I don’t have the resources for it.”

Here is Sweetin as self-appointed “enforcer and regulator” in the AP story that ran in Friday’s Denver Post, where he said he had been gathering information on dispensary owners and their operations for months:

“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. Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law… It’s not medicine. We’re still going to continue to investigate and arrest people.”

Calls to the Colorado DEA office have so far gone unreturned.

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Attorney says medical marijuana bust proof the DEA has gone rogue

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Rob Corry doesn’t want the DEA to go rogue anymore.

By Michael Roberts for the Denver Westword Source

You didn’t think attorney Rob Corry would remain silent after the Drug Enforcement Administration raid on the home of Chris Bartkowicz, did you?

After all, Corry’s among the most vocal of all Colorado’s medical marijuana advocates, and if he has problems with Representative Tom Massey’s bill to regulate the industry, you know he’d object to the DEA’s enforcement escalation, epitomized by the Bartkowicz sweep and action against two medical marijuana laboratories that had applied for licensure with the agency: Genovations in Colorado Springs and Full Spectrum in Denver.

And so he does, in a letter to the U.S. Inspector General written in regard to “Rogue DEA Agents Violation of Justice Department Formal Guidelines on Medical Marijuana.” In his view, the DEA’s actions against Bartkowicz are intended “to strike fear and panic in Colorado’s vulnerable and suffering medical marijuana patients,” and he calls for the agents responsible to be fired, suspended or punished appropriately. Read the rest of his letter below:

Office of the Inspector General U.S. Department of Justice Investigations Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Room 4706 Washington, DC 20530
Re: Rogue DEA Agents Violation of Justice Department Formal Guidelines on Medical Marijuana

Dear Office of Inspector General:

Please treat this as a formal complaint of waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct against U.S. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration employees, agents, contractors, grantees, and others who executed an armed raid on or about February 12, 2010 in the Denver, Colorado area targeted against Medical Marijuana patients and caregivers.

These actions are in direct violation of the formal guidelines issued by the Department on October 19, 2009. The caregiver involved in the raid, Chris Bartkowicz, remains incarcerated after being arrested by armed DEA agents.

The February 12 medical marijuana raid is reported in [the February 13] Denver Post. Rogue DEA agent Jeffrey Sweetin is quoted in the newspaper as opining “It’s not medicine.” Sweetin probably is not trained or educated as a physician, and his opinion is directly contrary to the will of Colorado’s citizens, a majority of whom decided in 2000 that marijuana is, in fact, medicine. Sweetin further comments in the article:

“We’re still going to continue to investigate and arrest people… Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law,” he said. “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.”

Sweetin’s comments confirm that the individual involved was in compliance with the law, and confirm Sweetin’s attitude that compliance with the law and the Main Justice October 19, 2009 guidelines is impossible. Sweetin’s purpose in making these provocative and irresponsible comments that “we arrest everybody,” is to strike fear and panic in Colorado’s vulnerable and suffering medical marijuana patients.

The United States Government should stand for what is right and good; and must not be in the business of using assault rifles and jailhouse bars to intimidate powerless Coloradans suffering from debilitating medical conditions. The rogue DEA agents involved with the raid seized medical marijuana grown for and intended for patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and other debilitating medical conditions as provided in the Colorado Constitution, Article XVIII § 14.

The October 19, 2009 Department of Justice formal guidelines instruct federal agents to refrain from using any federal resources for the investigation and prosecution of individuals who are in compliance with state laws governing the medical use of marijuana. “As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” The guidelines evidence an appropriate respect for the voters’ will in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The rogue agents, led by Sweetin, have ignored and disrupted the guidelines and the chain of command, and operate outside of their lawful authority. This action cannot stand, and must not be ignored by the Inspector General or Main Justice. The formal guidelines must be given meaning and effect.

If these rogue actions are ignored, this reprehensible ultra vires campaign of fear and intimidation will only intensify, and people will needlessly suffer. The agents involved must be fired, suspended, or appropriately disciplined so the message is sent that formal guidelines must be respected. The federal government must focus its resources on real crime.

Please contact me if you have additional questions. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Rob Corry
Attorney at Law

(Click here to for the original)

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Despite Obama admin’s promise, DEA continues raids on medical marijuana growers

Technically, every dispensary in [Colorado] is in blatant violation of federal lawNothing in federal law has changed. Wanting federal law to be different is not a great strategy….We will continue to enforce federal law, that’s what we’re paid to do, until the federal law changes.” – DEA Agent Jeffrey Sweetin

We saw this coming, right?
Marijuana Activists Stunned Over Obama’s Bush-Era Pick For DEA
We may not be able to stop Leonhart’s appointment, but we don’t have to be silent about it – click here

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Despite Obama Admin’s Promise, DEA Continues Raids on Medical Marijuana Growers

While campaigning in New Hampshire in 2007, Obama said “prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users” is “really not a good use of Justice Department resources.” In a March 2008 interview with Oregon’s Mail Tribune, he said, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” (Source)

On Thursday, a Denver news station interviewed Chris Bartkowicz about his medical-marijuana operation in the basement of his home. Bartkowicz, confident of his compliance with state laws, boasted of its size and profitability.

“I’m definitely living the dream now,” he told 9News.

The following day, drug-enforcement agents raided his home, placed him under arrest, and carried off dozens of black bags of marijuana plants and growing lights.

The Obama administration promised in October that the federal government would respect state laws allowing the growing and selling of marijuana for medicinal use, but the Drug Enforcement Agency sent a loud message with the arrest of Bartkowicz.

“It’s still a violation of federal law,” said Jeffrey Sweetin,  the DEA special agent in charge of the Denver office. “It’s not medicine. We’re still going to continue to investigate and arrest people.”

The United States Attorney’s office will decide Tuesday if charges will be filed against Bartkowicz.

In an interview from his jail cell, Bartkowicz said he believes the DEA is making an example of him. He would never have exposed himself if he believed his business was illegal.

“If I knew what I was doing was illegal, I would have never made a public display of myself,” he said. “I would not have put myself in the line of fire if I was knowingly violating the law.”

Sweetin wasn’t surprised by Bartkowicz’ confidence.

“According to him and according to what he’s seen on the news, he probably believes he is legal,” Sweetin said.

And according to Sweetin, it isn’t just growers who face arrest. The dispensaries are next on the list.

“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,” he said to The Denver Post. “Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law.”

Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden told federal agents in an October memo to not target people in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

Sweetin said the memo does nothing to change federal law, which makes marijuana illegal.

The difference between the Obama administration’s stated mission to end the “war on drugs” and the actual enforcement of that policy by DEA agents may not come as a surprise to those who have seen the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) budget for fiscal year 2011.

“We’re not at war with people in this country,” Kerlikowske told The Wall Street Journal in May.

But according to 2011 funding “highlights” released by the ONDCP (PDF link), the Obama administration is growing the drug war and tilting its funds heavily toward law enforcement over treatment.

During the interview in his jail cell, Bartkowicz said he realized his arrest is the center of a national debate and defended his right to publicly declare his business.

“I’m the poster boy now,” he said. “If I am legal, why should I be in the shadows?”  (Source: Raw Story)

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Some of the marijuana plants that were removed by DEA agents on Friday. (Scott Yun, 9News)

Jailed marijuana grower: ‘I’m the poster boy now’

by Jeffrey Wolf and Jace Larson, 9News

DENVER – The medical marijuana grower arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents after showing his operation to 9Wants to Know says he believes the DEA is hoping to make an example out of him.

“I’m the poster boy now,” Chris Bartkowicz told 9Wants to Know Saturday in his first interview from jail.

DEA agents seized 16 http://www.9news.com/genthumb/genthumb.ashx?e=3&h=204&w=320&i=/assetpool/images/100213044524_02-13-10-chris-b.jpgboxes worth of marijuana from his Highlands Ranch house near C-470 and University Bouldevard on Friday afternoon. It was the same day a news story on his growing operation was set to air on 9NEWS.

“We work hard and aren’t just people who want to smoke pot all the time,” Bartkowicz said. “My intent was to show that growers care for houses. We construct well-made rooms for good growing environments.”

“I figured I was in the right. I didn’t figure I had anything to hide,” he said. “If I am legal, why should I be in the shadows?”

Bartkowicz asked 9NEWS not to give his address in the story. The night before the story ran, a neighbor called to report she suspected someone was growing marijuana in the house where Bartkowicz lived, according to a federal official.

“If I knew what I was doing was illegal, I would have never made a public display of myself,” he said. “I would not have put myself in the line of fire if I was knowingly violating the law.”

The United States Attorney’s office will review the evidence collected and could decide Tuesday if charges will be filed against Bartkowicz. He is also expected to make his first appearance in federal court on Tuesday.

“According to him and according to what he’s seen on the news, he probably believes he is legal,” Special Agent in Charge of Denver’s DEA office Jeff Sweetin said.

Sweetin says even though state law allows for medical marijuana, federal law does not.

Nothing in federal law has changed. Wanting federal law to be different is not a great strategy….We will continue to enforce federal law, that’s what we’re paid to do, until the federal law changes. The only exception to that is discretion and department guidance.” (Source)

He says federal guidelines give him discretion and his focus is on large operations such as the one he believes Bartkowicz ran.

“Discretion is: I can’t send my DEA agents out on 10-plant grows. I’m not interested in that, it’s not what we do. We work criminal organizations that are enterprises generating funds by distributing illegal substances,” Sweetin said.

Bartkowicz said he did not know the number of marijuana plants seized by DEA agents, but video shot by 9NEWS shows dozens of plants in his basement. He also showed 9NEWS his medical marijuana license and documentation for the people to whom he provides marijuana.

“I hope to seek a resolution that conforms to state guidelines,” Bartkowicz said.

Sweetin left open the door to go after medical marijuana dispensaries.

“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,” he said to 9NEWS’ partners at The Denver Post in a separate interview. “Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law.”

An October memo from Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden said federal agents should not target people in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” the Post reported. The memo led many in Colorado’s medical-marijuana community to believe federal agents would no longer raid medical-marijuana dispensaries or growers.

Sweetin say the memo does nothing to change federal law, which makes marijuana illegal, and instead mostly addresses treatment of medical-marijuana patients and small-scale growers.

The Denver federal prosecutor’s office confirmed it is interested in sizeable operations.

A spokesman for the office said he could not comment on Sweetin’s remarks about dispensaries.

“The U.S. Attorney’s office focuses its goal on prosecuting large-scale drug traffickers,” said Jeff Dorschner, U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman.

– Article from the 9News.

Medical marijuana lawyer Robert Corry has filed a complaint with the Justice Department – “What we are doing with this letter is filing a formal complaint with the Inspector General, Department of Justice which is tasked with investigating waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct. I think these actions yesterday fit all those categories,” Attorney Rob Corry told 9Wants to Know February 12, 2010.

“Dear Office of Inspector General:

Please treat this as a formal complaint of waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct against U.S. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration employees, agents, contractors, grantees, and others who executed an armed raid on or about February 12, 2010 in the Denver, Colorado area targeted against Medical Marijuana patients and caregivers.
These actions are in direct violation of the formal guidelines issued by the Department on October 19, 2009. http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192. The caregiver involved in the raid, Chris Bartkowicz, remains incarcerated after being arrested by armed DEA agents.

The February 12 medical marijuana raid is reported in today’s Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14393797. Rogue DEA agent Jeffrey Sweetin is quoted in the newspaper as opining “It’s not medicine.” Sweetin probably is not trained or educated as a physician, and his opinion is directly contrary to the will of Colorado’s citizens, a majority of whom decided in 2000 that marijuana is, in fact, medicine. Sweetin further comments in the article:

“We’re still going to continue to investigate and arrest people. … Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law,” he said. “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.”

Sweetin’s comments confirm that the individual involved was in compliance with the law, and confirm Sweetin’s attitude that compliance with the law and the Main Justice October 19, 2009 guidelines is impossible. Sweetin’s purpose in making these provocative and irresponsible comments that “we arrest everybody,” is to strike fear and panic in Colorado’s vulnerable and suffering medical marijuana patients.

The United States Government should stand for what is right and good; and must not be in the business of using assault rifles and jailhouse bars to intimidate powerless Coloradans suffering from debilitating  medical conditions. The rogue DEA agents involved with the raid seized medical marijuana grown for and intended for patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and other debilitating medical conditions as provided in the Colorado Constitution, Article XVIII § 14.

The October 19, 2009 Department of Justice formal guidelines instruct federal agents to refrain from using any federal resources for the investigation and prosecution of individuals who are in compliance with state laws governing the medical use of marijuana. “As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” The guidelines evidence an appropriate respect for the voters’ will in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The rogue agents, led by Sweetin, have ignored and disrupted the guidelines and the chain of command, and operate outside of their lawful authority. This action cannot stand, and must not be ignored by the Inspector General or Main Justice. The formal guidelines must be given meaning and effect.  If these rogue actions are ignored, this reprehensible ultra vires campaign of fear and intimidation will only intensify, and people will needlessly suffer. The agents involved must be fired, suspended, or appropriately disciplined so the message is sent that formal guidelines must be respected. The federal government must focus its resources on real crime.  Click here to read more.

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Medical Marijuana frees people from addiction to deadly painkillers

(Source: The Huffington Post 1.30.10)  On Wednesday, dozens of former addicts made the tough decision to share their stories publicly, doing so before news cameras and a standing-room only crowd. The admissions were not without irony. It was, after all, a federally prohibited drug, according to the patients who spoke, that freed them from their addictions to far more lethal–though legal–prescription narcotics.

Under the Colorado Capitol’s golden dome, dozens of patients gathered for a state Senate committee hearing, eager to give their two cents on the controversy at hand: How to regulate the doctor-patient relationship when it comes to physicians making medical marijuana recommendations.

After hearing testimony, committee members voted as most anticipated they would, injecting significant and potentially unconstitutional government mandates into doctor-patient relationships previously viewed as sacred to many of the state’s sick and dying. Only conservative Republican Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield voted against the bill, understanding that although he may have concerns with medical marijuana’s inclusion in our state constitution, lawmakers are sworn to uphold that constitution, even those portions with which they disagree.

The legislative action sadly reflects an overly emotional response to salacious headlines chronicling the alleged abuses by just a handful of the nearly 1,000 doctors who have issued medical marijuana recommendations. Their offense: they let greed trump patient health, and now stand accused of being far too flippant in making medical marijuana recommendations.

Troubling, yes. But as patient after patient testified Tuesday, any possible abuses of the state’s medical marijuana registry (now host to more than 20,000 patients) should be analyzed under a larger public health care perspective. As they told lawmakers, some through tears, medical marijuana has freed them from the agony of addiction resulting not from marijuana, but rather from the dangerous narcotic pain medications they had previously resorted to in an effort to curb their chronic and often progressive symptoms.

The message was clear: Marijuana use–which has put millions of Americans behind bars over the last seven decades–is now freeing Colorado’s sick and dying from their addictions to xycontin, vicodin, morphine, and a multitude of other prescription drugs incredibly dangerous, addictive, and destructive when taken over long periods of time.

Legislators should listen.

In Colorado, prescription drug overdoses are now the leading killer in our state. As we’ve written previously for this site, such drugs now kill more Coloradans than car accidents every year. Meanwhile, marijuana has never been independently linked to an overdose death. Not a single one.

Tuesday’s testimony was compelling, with its honesty and humility too real to be some paid construction of the lobbyists who sprinkled the crowd. Lawmakers heard from a former college football star now in his 60’s, a man who now suffers the excruciating effects of decades-old injuries and the surgeries that failed to make him whole. Without medical marijuana, he testified, he’d have no other option than to pop prescription pain pills by the handful. Another wheelchair-confined patient also spoke of how medical marijuana has freed him of his own long-term prescription addiction. His voice wavered as he talked tenderly of his late wife, who died seven years ago from liver failure resulting from overdosing on Tylenol PM.

Bill sponsor, Chris Romer, a well intentioned Denver Democrat, proudly proclaimed that “this is the beginning of the end of the wild west,” his bill could usher in a whole new set of problems. On Wednesday, he showed a growing willingness to accept amendments that removed some of the bill’s most controversial provisions. Still, while it’s true that Colorado’s medical marijuana industry has thus far outpaced efforts to usher in its regulation, his bill still raises issues that could result in unintended consequences extending far beyond the relationships between medical marijuana patients and their doctors.

Ultimately, one of the bill’s most troubling mandates is also its most ironic. The language would prohibit any doctor who has ever had his or her Drug Enforcement Agency Schedule I prescribing license suspended–even for a day or even 30 years ago–from making medical marijuana recommendations to Colorado patients. Meanwhile, while the bill relies on this federal DEA standard to define professional competence, it then ignores the fact under the DEA’s own rules, doctors who recommend medical marijuana are subjected to having this same Schedule I license yanked.

The bill also subjects doctors making medical marijuana recommendations to a new system that could very quickly result in a two-tiered witch hunt, empowering not only the Board of Medical Examiners to revoke a physician’s medical license in its entirety for medical marijuana-related offenses, but also granting the state Health Department the ability to revoke any physician’s right to advise patients on medical marijuana. Doctors, already looking over their shoulder when making recommendations, will now have even more to fear.

For many indigent patients in the room Wednesday, cost was the biggest issue on their minds.

One disabled veteran testified that the new changes could make getting his medical marijuana recommendation prohibitively expensive. Under current federal Veteran’s Administration policy, doctors are prevented from recommending medical marijuana entirely. As the vet noted, his only source of medical care comes from the VA, meaning he’d have to go elsewhere. A doctor recommendation and follow up care could now cost him hundreds of dollars annually due to one bill provision that prohibits dispensaries from reimbursing doctors for making recommendations.

In absence of financial assistance for such required examinations, the vet would be forced to explore one of two options, neither desirable. He could either obtain his medical marijuana from the black market where physician recommendations are not required, or he could return to prescription narcotics to treat his horrific symptoms.

For years, legislators have turned a blind eye as doctors have too freely prescribed narcotic painkillers without adequately assessing patient necessity, or in many cases, without even speaking with a patient in-person before writing a prescription.

But this was only a passing thought Wednesday to too many of the bill’s supporters. Law enforcement officials claimed that lawmakers have a duty to prevent illegitimate abuses of medical marijuana. Even if this obligation is presumed true, however, fighting medical marijuana abuse should be far down the public policy priority list from addressing the scourge of other, far more harmful drugs, including prescription pain killers and alcohol. A proper regulatory scheme would acknowledge the real issues facing patients and caregivers today, including the lack of assurances of medicinal quality and consistency some face when selecting medicine. (Click here to see our analysis of SB 109, including our support for several of the bill’s provisions, and suggestions concerning others).

As Senate Bill 109 now prepares to make its journey through the Capitol, we hope legislators will resist rubberstamping Tuesday’s emotional response to a perceived problem. While it’s true that a handful of the nearly 1,000 doctors who have made medical marijuana recommendations thus far are accused of abusing the process, this legislation would remove time-tested protections to the doctor-patient relationship that would not only hurt patients, but could also begin the erosion of confidentiality between a far larger population of sick people and their doctors.

For centuries, doctors have committed to uphold the Hippocratic oath, pledging to “first, do no harm.” In the aftermath of Tuesday’s committee bill passage, lawmakers should consider taking their own oath.

Listen. Get the facts. Then make the prescription. Don’t let emotion cloud the truths revealed through the testimony of Colorado’s real experts–the patients and doctors themselves–who have resoundingly demonstrated that medical marijuana is one of the greatest tools we have in the essential fight against prescription drug addiction.

Jessica Corry is a Denver land use attorney and Robert J. Corry, Jr., is a Denver medical marijuana attorney. Together, the Corrys represents several medical marijuana caregivers and patients.

Medical marijuana lab raided by DEA

full spectrum labs photo.jpg Full Spectrum Laboratories received some uninvited visitors yesterday.

(Source 1.28.10)  Yesterday, Betty Aldworth, director of outreach for Full Spectrum Laboratories, a marijuana testing facility, was at the State Capitol to watch lab co-owner Bob Winniki testify about Senator Chris Romer’s just-introduced bill dealing with the relationship between doctors and medical marijuana patients.

But before Winniki could speak, the twosome received an e-mail letting them know members of the Drug Enforcement Administration had stopped by the lab. And by the time they got back to the facility, Aldworth says, “it was full of DEA agents” and other local law-enforcement types, who spent the next several hours seizing all the marijuana testing samples they could find.

In October, the Obama administration issued a memo confirming that its Justice Department wouldn’t actively pursue prosecution of medical marijuana businesses in states that had legalized the process. As such, Full Spectrum should have been in the clear — but in an attempt to preclude any problems, the lab formally applied for analytical lab licensure through the DEA.

“We didn’t need to do that, but we thought it was the right thing to do,” Aldworth says. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure that everything we’re doing is above board. We’ve tried to get the best advice from the smartest people about all parts of our business, and we’re trying to follow their advice as well as we can. And we’re trying to be engaged in the community. That’s the reason we were at the Capitol. We think it’s important that people know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Such transparency didn’t help with the DEA. During the agents’ first visit, they “smelled marijuana, which prompted them to request a warrant,” Aldworth says. The document eventually arrived, but Aldworth and company had already given the agents permission to search the premises, under the theory that they had nothing to hide.

Nonetheless, she continues, “they confiscated all of the material on site — even test tubes filled with extraction fluid that we run on our machines.”

Fortunately, Aldworth says, all of the samples sent to the lab had already been tested; it would have eventually been discarded. And agents didn’t seize the equipment, which Full Spectrum leases. However, plant material used to set baseline standards for testing, provided to the lab by assorted dispensaries, was taken as well.

Aldworth, who declines to speculate about the timing of the raid, says the agents were “incredibly professional” during the hours-long process “considering what an awful experience it was.” But they weren’t immediately forthcoming with information about what was going on. It took some time before Full Spectrum personnel were told that they wouldn’t be arrested or charged with a crime.

What happens next? Aldworth isn’t sure as it applies to the DEA. But as for Full Spectrum, “we’re not shutting down,” she emphasizes. “We are as determined as we were at the beginning of the day yesterday to keep providing this service to Coloradans who need it. We’re not going anywhere. We’re still going to be here.”