Medical marijuana case may collapse |

Medical marijuana case may collapse

Donna Gray

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Defendants in a medical marijuana case could be off the hook thanks to destroyed evidence and a loophole in the law.Jennifer Ryan, ex-husband Gene Brownlee, Brownlee’s nephew, Justin Brownlee, and another man, Drew Gillespie, are charged with various counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Ryan’s attorney Kris Hammond has requested sanctions against prosecutors, alleging officers from the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team officers destroyed the marijuana plants growing in the Brownlee and Ryan apartment, contrary to the law.On the night of the arrests, Aug. 2, the plants were taken to the county landfill and burned.Hammond quoted the medical marijuana law, Amendment 20 to the state constitution passed in 2000, saying that any property owned or used in connection with medical marijuana use cannot be destroyed, but must be held for the defendants and returned to them if the outcome of the case is acquittal.The four were arrested Aug. 2 at Brownlee and Ryan’s apartment in Rifle after the drug squad staked out the house for three days.According to the affidavit to obtain a search warrant, the owner of the apartment building gave a caretaker at the apartments permission by to enter Brownlee and Ryan’s residence when he smelled a chemical odor coming out of a dryer vent on the outside of the building. Upon entering the ground floor of the apartment, the caretaker allegedly saw more than 100 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, many of which were up to 4 feet high.Brownlee told investigators he could grow pot legally because he has terminal cancer. Ryan, who had pleaded not guilty, said she is a certified caregiver to five people using medical marijuana. According to the law, both medical marijuana users and their caregivers can possess up to six plants, of which no more than three can be in flower, or as many plants as they feel necessary to treat a given medical condition.In all, police officers allegedly found 131 pot plants in the apartment.Hammond has asked presiding Judge James Boyd to dismiss the case. Boyd will hear arguments for and against the motions on March 24.Deputy district attorney Jeff Cheney, who is prosecuting the case, said the officers preserved one leaf from each plant before destroying them. He also acknowledged that the law “places a duty on law enforcement that the plants be kept alive,” which could be onerous given the number of plants involved.Hammond said there is no real case law with regard to medical marijuana, so these three cases will be a real test of Amendment 20.Vail, Colorado

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