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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Marijuana -- A Growing Battle

HUERFANO COUNTY — Mike Stetler is proud of his garden. It took him months to get the lush jungle just right.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" he said.

A decade ago, the labor of planting would have been impossible for Stetler. Strung out on Demerol, OxyContin, morphine and oxycodone, the pain-addled Navy veteran was, he says, "a slobbering zombie, stupid and living in la-la land."

Since 2002, though, when he started growing and smoking the medicinal marijuana he now tends so carefully, he hasn't touched a pill.

"The pain isn't all the way gone, but I can live again. I can get out of bed. The sun is shining on me again," he said. "See what God does? He gives us something beautiful to use. This healing herb. And what happens?"

What happened is sheriff's deputies landed a helicopter on his land, broke open two padlocked gates and ransacked his trailer, ripping a gaping hole in the roof. They seized 44 marijuana plants and more than eight state-issued medical-marijuana cards that indicate other medical-marijuana patients have told the state he is their designated caregiver. They left a search warrant hanging over Stetler's medical-marijuana sign.

Almost eight years after Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, engraving in the Colorado Constitution the lawful use of doctor-recommended medical marijuana for those "suffering from debilitating medical conditions," police and prosecutors zealously pursue medical-marijuana growers like Stetler, citing everything from the fact that they just don't like the law to concerns about public safety and confusion over what the law allows.

The law is "overly broad," "a work in progress," "vague" and "a mistake," according to cops and prosecutors along the Front Range, home to more than three-quarters of the state's 3,302 residents enrolled in the Colorado medical-marijuana registry program. There are 12 states in the U.S. that have medical-marijuana laws. Of the 10 with marijuana card systems, Colorado is the only state that does not issue caregivers like Stetler licenses that specifically allow for cultivation.

"Marijuana cultivation is a violation of federal and state law. Just because someone says 'medical marijuana' doesn't mean we automatically back off and we don't enforce the law," said Larry Abrahamson, district attorney for Larimer County, where more than 45 percent of felony marijuana cases in the past decade have involved growers, many with state-issued cards. "Just because we have Amendment 20 does not mean we have free marijuana for everyone."

Raid, but no charges

Tucked into a lonely corner of 7,755- resident Huerfano County, Stetler has nursed 33 new marijuana plants from the sandy soil. Good medicine, he says, squeezing sticky, stinky and crystallized buds atop listing 7-foot stalks.

His plants are growing on private land miles from a paved road in two sheds posted with 13 state-issued medical-marijuana certificates that designate Stetler is now a licensed care giver for 13 patients. His doctor has advised he needs 15 plants to alleviate his constant pain stemming from a 1990 car accident.

Since the raid more than a year ago, Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman has not filed any charges or returned Stetler's plants. No visits from police. Not even a ticket or a letter. Newman said he's waiting.

"We want to see what happens with some of these other cases," said Newman, who suspects not all of Stetler's 44 plants were legal and has destroyed them. "There's a lot of legal stuff up in the air, and it's going to take judges making decisions to figure it out."

The amendment seems to be functioning for people who use and distribute medical marijuana. Eleven storefront dispensaries operate openly in Colorado, some distributing medical marijuana to as many as 600 patients who need as much as an ounce of the weed a week. More than 500 doctors have recommended marijuana, and the number of patients on the state's registry has almost doubled since January.

The Denver Post


Anonymous said...

Freaking unbelievable! Equally as much as the corrupted American justice system wants wins over fairness, the AMA (American Medical Association) wishes to keep the citizens enslaved in a system designed to hook people on drugs, aka pharmaceuticals. Medical science is in its infancy. What is *fact* today, will be tomorrows fiction. Marijuana IS Gods creation. The fact that it WORKS would severely limit physician, judiciary and prison incomes. Zero tolerance on any form of compassion. The revolving doors exist in many institutions and corporations. The dictatorship that has spawned should be alarming to every American citizen.

Anonymous said...

I am saving $2400 a year by using medical marijuana. I used to be on Topamax and other very expensive medications. I now send the pharmicutical companies half the money I used to and am healthier, hapier, and more productive.

Anonymous said...