Pot ruling worries local man | SteamboatToday.com
Susan Cunningham

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Pot ruling worries local man

Decision makes medical user subject to federal prosecution

Hayden resident Don Nord was fired up about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday that federal authorities can prosecute people growing and using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“It’s pretty upsetting, because we all thought Angel was going to win it for us,” Nord said, referring to medicinal marijuana user Angel Raich, who was involved in the Supreme Court case. “We need to keep this going. We can’t lose our medical marijuana.”

For Nord, a registered medicinal marijuana user in Colorado, the decision is personal. Nord is in the middle of a case related to medicinal marijuana before the U.S. District Court in Colorado.

With the Supreme Court’s decision, he said he would continue to worry that his home could be raided again.

“You can’t be safe. If the government says no, well, then all of us marijuana patients, we’re in jeopardy,” Nord said. “They can come in and raid our homes, put us in jail, even though we’re sick.”

Although the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision about the California case was upsetting to Nord, it may not change much.

“Nothing has changed,” said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado. “Marijuana was prohibited by federal law prior to (Monday’s) Supreme Court ruling, it is prohibited by federal law following the Supreme Court ruling.”

The primary focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office remains large-scale drug-trafficking organizations, Dorschner said.

Nord, 59, is one of 668 Coloradans registered with the state to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. He has suffered from cancer, diabetes, chronic pain and a heart condition and lives off $673 a month in Social Security payments.

If Nord were not able to use marijuana, he said he would have no good options.

“I might as well die,” he said. “It helps me sleep, it helps me relax enough to go to sleep. I’m in so much pain that the pain medicine I’m on doesn’t really help any more.”

Colorado, along with Alas–ka, Arizona, California, Haw–aii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Montana, have laws that allow the use of medicinal marijuana. Federal laws, however, prohibit all use of marijuana.

Nord received statewide attention in 2003 after his marijuana was confiscated during a raid by the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team. He never was charged for possessing marijuana because the paperwork for those charges was misplaced and entered late, but his marijuana and growing supplies were confiscated.

Nord asked for his marijuana back, and the case eventually ended up in U.S. District Court in March 2004. No decision has been issued.

Nord’s attorney, Kris Hammond, agreed that the Supreme Court ruling does not change much. If the court’s decision had gone the other way and said that medical marijuana users could not be prosecuted, then that would have been a change.

“It was one of those situations where parties in the lawsuit had a lot to gain and nothing to lose by the decision,” Hammond said.

Hammond said that he expects U.S. District Judge Walker Miller to rule consistently with the Supreme Court decision when he makes a decision about Nord’s case.

Hammond has said he thinks that Miller was waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision before issuing his own ruling.

Nord will decide his next steps when the judge’s decision is issued, Hammond said.

Nord said he’s not sure how much worrying he can take. He’s been trying to sell T-shirts and bumper stickers to raise funds for his cause, but he said it’s hard to deal with the stress he’s facing.

“I’m not a criminal,” he said. “I’m just trying to medicate.”

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