Colo. Sheriff: Medical Marijuana Enforcement Waste Of Time

Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 | Posted by Chico Brisbane | Labels: , ,

In the past six months, seven of 10 search warrants served at local marijuana growing operations were for people following the law, said Derek Woodman, undersheriff and Summit County Drug Task Force director. The caregiver in the recent failed bust, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said officers with guns approached his home the evening of Oct. 16. They “pulled us outside” for their protection, he said. But the he showed them the patients' medical files and cards, and the seven officers were gone an hour later. The plants were left unharmed and the house wasn't dismantled.

The Summit County Sheriff said this week enforcement is a waste of resources: In the last few raids they've conducted, the individuals whose properties were searched were able to produce caregiver cards showing they were lawfully allowed by state law to grow the amounts found on their premises. Colorado law does not allow law enforcement to know the identities of caregivers, so they are shooting in the dark.

[T]here's no way for them to confirm a caregiver's authenticity without serving warrants. The state doesn't track the caregivers, who are named in the patients' documents.

In addition, the Sheriff said, his deputies have felt the need to water the plants and keep them alive after seizing them, just in case the grow turns out to be lawful under state law. Civil cases have valued plants as high as $5,000 per plant.

None of this mattered to the Summit County Commissioners, who have just imposed a 120-day moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas. While the Frisco Town Council noted it was important to have similar rules among the various towns within the county, the Summmit County Commissioners are walking their own path. This reminds me of the kid who used to arrive at school looking like he had been dressed by two different mothers -- Same place, same time, different rules, without rhyme or reason.

Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, not by statute, but by constitutional amendment. Whether zoning laws and land use regulations can trump or pre-empt a constitutional provision to allow a county or local government to ban dispensaries altogether, when the feds have said they won't prosecute dispensaries acting in compliance with state law, may be beyond the field of expertise of many criminal defense lawyers today. But if criminal prosecutions start, I have a feeling it won't be for long.


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