A Routt County judge's order that 2 ounces of marijuana and growing equipment should be returned to a man who uses it for medicinal purposes is being reviewed by the Colorado U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Jeff Dorschner, spokesperson for the Colorado U.S. Attorney's Office, said Wednesday that the office plans to determine a course of action within 21 days, the timeframe by which the return of the marijuana and equipment has been ordered.
"We're reviewing the judge's order; we're consulting with the DEA and we'll, within the specified time, determine our next steps," Dorschner said.
Dorschner's comments came after Routt County Judge James Garrecht ruled Monday that Hayden resident Don Nord, 57, should have the drugs and growing equipment that were seized during a house search in mid-October returned to him.
Dan Reuter, a field agent and spokesperson for the Denver field office of the DEA, said that he does not know of any instance in which the DEA has returned an illegal controlled substance.
The case has highlighted a conflict between federal and state law. Under federal law, marijuana is an illegal drug for everyone, but under Colorado law, people with certain medical conditions can grow and use the drug.
"This is an issue that's got to be resolved at some point," Reuter said.
Colorado is one of nine states that allows medicinal marijuana use. Nord, who has battled cancer and diabetes and suffers from extreme pain, is registered with the state's Medical Marijuana Registry program.
The marijuana and growing equipment were obtained during a search in mid-October by GRAMNET, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, which is a federal task force.
Criminal drug possession charges were filed against Nord but were dismissed by Garrecht because the ticket was filed late.
Nord's attorney, Kristopher Hammond, said he was happy with the judge's decision, but that he and his client might pursue action to get compensation for the three marijuana plants that were taken during the search and have been presumed dead.
The state law requires that if drugs and growing equipment are taken during a search and no charges are pressed, the drugs and equipment must be taken care of until further order of the court.
"They're supposed to take care of the plants, under our constitution, and they pulled them up from the ground," Hammond said. "They destroyed my client's marijuana plants. I think he needs to be compensated for that violation."
Hammond said he couldn't guess whether an appeal would be requested or if federal agencies would try to get a new ruling.
"We're breaking new ground here," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen."
Deputy District Attorney Marc Guerette, who represented the people of Colorado and so GRAMNET, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He said Monday that he did not know whether his office would pursue an appeal.