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Justice Department Pot Memo Confusion Leads Man to Start Business

A Denver man facing federal marijuana cultivation charges had his case take a hit this week when the federal judge assigned to the mater sided with prosecutors on a key component of the man's defense. Christopher Bartkowicz attempted to have his attorney argue he ought not to face the aforementioned charges because he had started growing pot for profit in his basement only after reviewing memos from the U.S. Justice Department which he interpreted to reveal cultivation cases wouldn't be federally pursued if the cultivation and sale was occurring in states that allow medical marijuana.

U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer scolded the defendant for jumping to such a conclusion, saying that any reasonable person who had read the memos in question (between U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and another Justice official) would not have concluded they gave cart blanche to the populace to begin growing large quantities of marijuana without violation of federal law and threat of federal prosecution.

Bartkowicz's home in a suburb of Denver was first searched this past February after the grower allowed his pot business to be featured in a report by KUSA television. Bartkowicz claims that his lack of fear in showing off his business proves he honestly didn't believe he was breaking the law. The pot grower went so far as to claim in court he was being unfairly singled out because of the media attention his business received. Judge Brimmer rejected this as a valid defense.

Another of Bartkowicz's failed attempts to structure a defense involved claiming the variety of pot he produced was of a new medicinal strain, and shouldn't be considered in the same category as the traditionally banned substance. Bartkowicz's attempt to bring in the KUSA reporter and an employee of the state who oversees the regulation of medical marijuana for Colorado were also denied. Judge Brimmer went so far as to rule the defendant wouldn't be allowed to have any witness testify to marijuana's medicinal value.

The defendant already has two drug convictions on his record, and now faces a potential life sentence once the trial officially begins in November. Medical marijuana activists were on hand at the Denver courthouse this week to protest Bartkowicz's arrest and impending trial. The man's lawyer commented to news media that this situation wouldn't have occurred had apparent conflicts and confusion between Colorado and federal law on the marijuana issue been addressed more thoroughly.

Source: Associated Press "Judge: State pot law no defense for drug charges" 9/23/10

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