Marijuana, a Growing Battle

September 16, 2008

Huerfano County, CO — 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.”

Complete Article:

Source: Denver Post


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