Focus turns to state pot laws
Department of Justice makes medical marijuana stance clear
October 20, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Local medical marijuana users and dispensaries no longer need to worry about federal prosecutors. It’s the state law that still preoccupies them.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that it will no longer be a priority to prosecute medical marijuana users who adhere to state law, even if that contradicts federal law.
“As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” Deputy Attorney General David Ogden wrote in a memo addressed to federal prosecutors in states where medical marijuana laws exist.
D and C Medical Marijuana, LLC and Therapeutic Massage co-owner Charlie Magnuson, of Steamboat Springs, said he was closely following the decisions by the federal government, and he hopes the memo will provide some clarity.
“That’s a good deal for everyone involved in the medical marijuana business,” he said.
Rocky Mountain Remedies dispensary co-owner Kevin Fisher said the memo makes clear what Holder has hinted at in previous months.
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“Holder made those verbal statements for several months saying the feds were not going to interfere with state and local laws,” said Fisher, also of Steamboat Springs.
Fisher said he decided to open his dispensary based on his belief that it was legally permissible, but he said operating a business where medical marijuana is sold to licensed users is still not without legal challenges. At a meeting of the Colorado Board of Health in July, regulators considered changing some rules that would have made the “dispensary model untenable,” Fisher said.
“Hopefully we get some reasonable state regulations in place so everyone is comfortable and knows under what laws they’re operating,” he said.
Hayden resident Don Nord was caught in the battle between federal and state laws when his house was raided Oct. 13, 2003. Authorities seized his medical marijuana, and Nord went to court to fight the seizure, but he lost in a July 2005 ruling. Since that time, he said he’s had no trouble finding medical marijuana – and no trouble with the law in its use.
Even so, Nord, who has campaigned for medical marijuana, said more regulation may be needed at the state level. He said he sent in his application to renew his medical marijuana certificate in August but has not yet received a response. He said he suspects it is because of an overwhelming demand on the office.
“I run into cases that the people on medical marijuana do not need to be on it,” he said. “There’s something wrong here.”
The All Crimes Enforcement Team, formerly the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, was the office that raided Nord’s home. ACET Commander Garrett Wiggins said his office does not focus on medical marijuana users.
“As long as they stay within the legal guidelines,” the dispensaries and users will not be targeted, he said. “And people who are violating those guidelines, we’ll put some attention on them.”
Wiggins said he does not have any confirmed cases of people violating Colorado’s medical marijuana laws.
– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org