Kip Strean finally has found his cause. The day he met a "soft- spoken, gentle guy" named Don Nord, Strean joined an increasing number of people in Routt County -- and across the country -- who see themselves as activists, helping Nord carry his oxygen tank into battle.
"It just broke my heart when he told me his story," Strean said.
If you go What: Benefit for Don Nord's legal fund When: 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday Where: Geeks Garage, 730 Lincoln Ave. Cost: $5 suggested donation
In mid-October, agents from
GRAMNET, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, raided Nord's home and seized his marijuana, pipes and growing equipment -- despite the fact that he was registered with Colorado's Medical Marijuana Registry program.
Since then, Nord has been in court fighting to get his medicine back.
Strean joined the fight a few weeks ago after reading a quote from Don Nord written in a Steamboat Today article about the case.
"He said that he didn't know if he would be able to continue the legal battle because he didn't have the money," Strean said. "I thought, 'Man, you can't stop now.'"
It was when Strean decided to organize a benefit that he realized how many people in the community saw this as their fight, too.
"It was amazing," Strean said. "I went out and started putting posters up. I held up the poster and people's eyes would get real big and tell me how great it was.
"Everyone knows the issue."
Strean's posters read, "Guys ... please don't bust cancer patients." (Nord used marijuana to treat pain for kidney cancer, diabetes and other illnesses.)
To Strean and to many others, the issue is less about marijuana and more about a David-and-Goliath story between nine agents on a federal drug task force and one man so sick that he struggles to get out of his chair.
"This is the type of thing I hate to see happen," Strean said. "They thought they could beat up on a little guy. They thought this would be an easy bust and this would be a good use of their time, but this is a bad use of all our time and all the tax dollars we paid nine guys however much an hour.
"They stepped in the wrong mud puddle."
Since November, when news broke of his case, Nord has been overwhelmed not only by what happened to him, but also by the outpouring of support he has received from people he will never meet.
He receives letters and cards -- some with checks to help pay his legal expenses -- and his phone rings constantly with calls from reporters across the nation, representing publications including High Times Magazine.
"People have been coming out of the woodwork to show their support, both for Don and also for the bigger picture," Nord's attorney, Kris Hammond, said.
People are getting behind Nord's fight for several reasons, he said. There are the people who see this as a state's rights issue. For them, it's about the right of the people of Colorado to create laws addressing issues such as medicinal marijuana and have those decisions respected by the federal government.
For others, it's about the behavior of GRAMNET.
GRAMNET representatives, who did not immediately return calls, have said in the past that the federal task force operates under federal law, which dictates that marijuana is illegal -- period -- with no exceptions for medicinal users. Under the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, federal laws always supercede state laws whenever the two conflict, making it a black-and-white issue for federally deputized officers.
"We've gotten support from people you would never expect," Hammond said. "I know a lot of people in town, and I bump into people of all kinds who wish me well and wish Don well."
Nord needs the help, Hammond said: "We're fighting the United States government. They brought Saddam Hussein to his knees. Don Nord doesn't have the horsepower to level the playing field."
"I know there are a lot of people behind me," Nord said. "But my life hasn't changed much. I'm still doing the same things I did before, and all the money that I have gotten, I turned over to my attorney."
Hammond charges $200 an hour for his services. Last month's bill was almost $8,000, Nord said. But Nord is on a fixed income and Hammond lets him pay $100 a month.
"Unfortunately, there are these battles that need to be fought," Hammond said. "You don't pick and choose when you're going to be chosen to lead the parade."
At Wednesday's benefit, Strean will sing a song he wrote called "The Ballad of Don Nord" sung to the tune of The Who's "Pinball Wizard." The evening will be a kind of variety show featuring We're Not Clowns, singer songwriter Terry Koch, didgeridoo playing by Paulie Anderson and Scott Glackman, piano by Andy Pratt and spoken word by Malcolm Goble.
"Everything fell together nicely for this benefit," Strean said. "I barely had to make a phone call. I think the sentiment in town is 'let's get serious about this and what's going on with (GRAMNET)."
Nord plans to attend Wednesday's benefit, and another benefit to be held Saturday in Denver. Someone Nord has never met is throwing the Denver benefit, he said.
More information about Don Nord's legal fund will be posted on the Web site www.donnord.org, which is currently under construction and is being donated by SpringSips.
-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org