Marijuana user wants cops punished
December 31, 2003
A Hayden man has asked a state court to cite officers who seized marijuana from his home with contempt for not following a judge’s order to return the drugs.
Don Nord, 57, who has battled kidney cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, is registered with Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Registry program. Agents with the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, who searched Nord’s home and seized the drugs in mid-October, argue they are not bound by the county judge’s ruling because federal law prohibiting the use of marijuana supercedes state law.
Kristopher Hammond, Nord’s attorney, filed a motion Tuesday seeking contempt citations for all nine officers who participated in the search. The motion was filed in Routt County court.
At a hearing Dec. 8, County Judge James Garrecht instructed the federal agents to return the seized drugs and equipment to Nord. Some equipment was returned to Nord, but none of the drugs were. Garrecht set a deadline of Monday.
If cited for contempt, the officers could be fined, forced to pay attorney fees or sent to jail, Hammond said.
Hammond’s filing is the most recent step in a case highlighting the conflict between state and federal law regarding marijuana.
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According to federal law, marijuana is illegal to use and grow. But a Colorado law approved by voters in 2000 allows marijuana to be used and grown by people with certain medical conditions. Colorado is one of nine states with laws permitting marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
Dick Weatherbee, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said that under federal law, marijuana is a “Schedule I” controlled substance, the level considered the most addictive and dangerous.
“Under federal law, marijuana is contraband, and by policy we destroy contraband. We don’t give it back,” Weatherbee said. “There is obviously a dilemma here.”
He said before the U.S. Attorney takes any action, the judge’s ruling on the motion is needed. If Garrecht decides not to hold the officers in contempt of court, “then it’s not much of an issue,” Weatherbee said.
Weatherbee said one option could be to move the case to federal court.
Dan Reuter, a field agent and spokesperson for the Denver field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said the drugs are being held at a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration laboratory in San Francisco and are slated for destruction.
In mid-October, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team searched Nord’s home and seized marijuana, growing equipment, and more. Some equipment, such as a 1,000-watt light bulb and grow light ballast, was returned last week. But the 2 ounces of usable marijuana and the smoking pipes that were ordered to be returned were not.
“We waited up all night (Monday), just like waiting for Santa Claus to show up,” Hammond said. “Instead of Santa Claus, we got the Grinch.”
Hayden Police Chief Jody Lenahan, who participated in the search, said he has never been held in contempt of court for his work.
Nord was issued a citation for the possession of between 1 and 8 ounces of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia after the search. Those charges were dismissed, Garrecht said, because the citation was filed late.
Nord had more than 2 ounces of usable drug, officers said, so he was out of compliance with the state rule.
The case could be appealed or sent to a federal court if the administration and other federal agencies decide to take it further.
“They could stop it easily by just giving this guy his stuff back,” Hammond said, “and it would just die.”