Marijuana case dismissed

Hayden man's battle about medicinal use fails in federal court

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Don Nord's medical marijuana battle might be coming to an end, at least in the courtrooms.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a federal judge dismissed the case brought by Nord in an attempt to recover the 2 ounces of medicinal marijuana that was seized from his home Oct. 14, 2003.

Soon after the seizure, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Nar--cotics Enforcement Team officers who confiscated the marijuana were ordered by Routt County Judge James Garrecht to return it to Nord, but they did not.

The U.S. Attorney's Office then entered the case on behalf of the officers, and the case entered federal court.

A refusal to return the marijuana is not a reason to hold those officers in contempt of court, U.S. District Court Judge Walker Miller's order said. The officers were acting as federal officers and didn't overstep their roles, the order stated.

Because using and growing marijuana is illegal according to federal law, the officers were acting appropriately, even though marijuana is allowed for medical purposes under Colorado law. Medicinal marijuana also is allowed in 10 other states.

Miller's ruling refers to the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which says that federal law overrides state law when the two are in conflict.

The ruling falls in line with a June 6 U.S. Supreme Court decision that federal authorities can prosecute people growing and using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Nord's attorney, Kris Ham--mond, was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. Nord said that without Hammond's advice, he did not know whether his legal fight was over.

"If it's over, then it stands to reason that the government's standing behind their decision the whole way," Nord said. "But at least we gave them a good run.

"At least I feel that I have tried to accomplish something for us medical-marijuana people."

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado, said the victory would be most felt by the officers and agencies "who were following the letter of the law and were facing punishment because of that."

Also important, the ruling affirms existing laws and doesn't change them, Dorschner said. Therefore, the ruling won't change the focus of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado, which consistently has been on large-scale drug traffickers, Dorschner said.

If, during an investigation, federal agents find someone with medical marijuana, they are required to seize it because it is an illegal drug, he said.

"But it is not our intent to do anything other than continue to focus our attention on large-scale traffickers," Dorschner said.

Nord, 59, of Hayden, is one of 668 Coloradans registered with the state to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. He has suffered from kidney and prostate cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, blood clots and a heart condition, and has lived on Social Security for 20 years. His monthly check is for $673.

Nord said he's lost friends because of his involvement in the case. People he was close to before -- some of whom use marijuana -- no longer stay in touch because they're worried that being associated with him could get them in trouble.

He worries constantly that he'll find his home swarming with officers there to take away his marijuana plants.

Nord recently received his updated registration as a medical marijuana user from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

This year, a memo was sent updating users about the Supreme Court's recent ruling. The last line read: "Colorado registry patients should remain aware of the potential for federal prosecution."

Still, Nord will keep selling his T-shirts and bumper stickers, hoping to raise funds for his cause. His battle has taken him to San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to conferences and the offices of U.S. congressmen, and he doesn't want to stop now.

His fight never has been about getting back his two ounces of marijuana, he said, but to make medicinal marijuana legal.

"If a doctor says it's fine for this person to use it, and the state says it's fine for this person to use it, then the federal government should back off," Nord said.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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