In Colorado, the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical use is legal – it’s even written into the state constitution. Enacted in 2000, Colorado’s medical marijuana amendment allows those with diseases such as cancer to purchase and use the drug.
It’s common sense that, with medical marijuana users, there must be medical marijuana growers. As such, these individuals are also protected under Colorado law. So, why is Chris Bartkowicz facing federal drug charges after discussing his medical marijuana operation, legal under Colorado law, with reporter from 9News in Denver?
The key here is the fact that these are “federal drug charges,” since federal law forbids any form of marijuana use, cultivation or sale. In the end, federal law trumps state law. Still, Bartkowicz has decided to fight the case, and many believe that the court’s ruling will set a federal precedent for how these types of cases are handled.
While he had initially planned to plea bargain for a lighter sentence, in mid-April, Bartkowicz changed his mind and decided to fight the drug charges. It’s a risky move, especially as Bartkowicz could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
He has consistently maintained that the marijuana he cultivated was grown for patients and dispensaries, in accordance with Colorado law. However, this fact alone really won’t shield him from federal drug charges. The defense hasn’t worked for other defendants operating in states that condone medical marijuana use.
Still, Bartkowicz, is hoping to use a Justice Department memo released in 2009 to argue his case. In the memo, Justice Department officials asked federal prosecutors to refrain from charging individuals conducting themselves in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with their state’s laws.
Federal prosecutors in the Bartkowicz case claim that he had more marijuana plants than legally allowed under Colorado’s plant-to-patient ratio.
- Highlands Ranch Pot Grower Wants Trial (Denver Post)