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Colorado pot grower gets five year prison term

Although the possession and growing of medical marijuana is now permitted in 15 states and the District of Columbia, individuals who fail to follow their state’s laws regarding possession and cultivation might find themselves in the smoke-free confines of a federal correctional facility.

In Colorado in late January 2011, Christopher Bartkowicz was convicted and sentenced to five years in a federal prison for violating state law regarding the growing and possessing of marijuana for medical purposes. Authorities found more than 100 plants growing in the basement of his suburban home. The defense’s argument that he was growing marijuana for medical purposes was rejected by federal prosecutors. They pointed out that Bartkowicz was growing more than the amount permitted under state law and had never met any of the patients for whom he was presumably growing the marijuana. It did not help that Bartkowicz had previous drug convictions and that his home was located near a school.

Although federal law still considers marijuana to be a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it is addictive and has no recognized medical value, the Obama Administration’s policy is generally not to target individuals or businesses that comply with their state’s laws. Unfortunately, Bartkowicz failed to demonstrate that his actions adhered to HB1284, the Colorado statute that protects businesses and patients who are in compliance with Amendment 20, the 2000 Colorado law permitting possession of the drug for medical purposes.

The Colorado law eliminates the grower as a separate business and requires that the drug be grown and sold by a Medical Marijuana Center in a location approved by the local municipality, a provision to prevent rogue or free-agent growers. A patient requesting marijuana must have a debilitating medical condition diagnosed by a licensed Colorado physician who feels that the patient might benefit from the use of the drug. The patient may then apply for a medical marijuana registry card, which, if approved, permits the individual to possess up to two ounces of the drug and six plants.

A patient may designate a caregiver to supply his needs. The caregiver is allowed to increase the amount of marijuana he or she can cultivate and possess. Still, a caregiver must follow certain guidelines. Anyone who wishes to open a dispensary or who wants more information about the caregiver provisions of the law should consult with a criminal defense attorney to help preclude any entanglement with federal or state officials.

If your use, cultivation or dispensing of medical marijuana has drawn the attention of law enforcement, you need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney experienced in the defense of marijuana and other controlled substance offenses.