U.S. Attorney: Drop contempt charges | SteamboatToday.com

U.S. Attorney: Drop contempt charges

Susan Cunningham

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking that contempt charges be dropped against officers who confiscated medicinal marijuana from a Hayden man and then refused a judge’s order to give it back.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office argues the officers were acting as federal law enforcement agents, followed federal laws and completed a constitutional search. The response was filed this week.

Routt County Judge James Garrecht issued the contempt charges in January, but the case was removed to a U.S. District Court in March and now will be decided by U.S. District Judge Walker Miller.

The case has highlighted a conflict between state and federal rules. According to a voter-approved law, Colorado allows use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The U.S. Attorney’s Office argues federal law prohibits such use and that federal law supercedes Colorado’s.

The Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team officers involved were rightfully acting as federal law enforcement agents when Garrecht ordered the marijuana be returned, the U.S. Attorney’s response states. Garrecht’s order is incompatible with federal law, the response continues.

The response then points out that under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law governs the officers’ actions, while Nord’s arguments rely mostly on state law.

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Nord’s argument that the officers conspired to take the drugs from the state court and “federalize” them “could not be further from the truth,” the response states.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office argues the point is not whether Nord had the right to possess medicinal marijuana, but rather whether the officers had the right to seize it.

“It is not Nord’s actions that are under scrutiny, nor is he being prosecuted at this time,” the response states. “It is (the officers’) actions, authority and rights that are the subject of the contempt action.”

Besides, the response argues, The Tenth Circuit, which Colorado is part of, has “repeatedly” held that Congress did not exceed its authority in making marijuana illegal.

Miller may schedule an evidentiary hearing before making a decision.

The case, experts have said, has potential to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nord said how far the case goes likely would depend on whether he gets financial assistance.

Nord is on a fixed income and pays attorney Kris Hammond $100 a month for fees that have accumulated to about $16,000, Nord said.

Nord has a Web page (www.donnord.org), through which supporters can make donations, and his friends are selling T-shirts at downtown Steamboat Springs stores to raise money.

“I can’t afford to continue if I don’t get help,” Nord said. “I don’t want to drop it. It’s not about the marijuana anymore. It’s about the law.”

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com