Medical marijuana user has renewed fears
DENVER ” After 10 surgeries, dozens of other medical procedures and years of trying various drugs, the pain from a nerve disease drove Dana May to try to kill himself, but then he found marijuana and a legal way to use it.
“It made me cry the first time I smoked it because I realized I finally found something that took the pain away,” May said. “It doesn’t take it all away but makes it so I can function.”
May is one of 668 Coloradans who hold a certificate allowing them to use and grow marijuana for pain relief under a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2000. But the 47-year-old resident of suburban Aurora said he will probably stop after Monday’s U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that medical marijuana laws in 10 states, including Colorado, don’t protect him from federal prosecution.
“It’ll change my entire world,” he said. “I’m afraid they’ll come after me.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t overturn state medical-marijuana laws.
“What it tells a medical marijuana user is the state law doesn’t make you immune” from federal prosecution, said Attorney General John Suthers, a former U.S. attorney for Colorado.
Under federal law, marijuana is a “Schedule 1” controlled substance, in the same legal category as heroin and other substances Congress said have no legitimate medical use.
“It’s just sad,” said Denver attorney Robert Corry Jr., who represented May and another certified user whose growing equipment was seized by federal agents.
“These people are patients, they’re suffering, they’re not hurting anybody. They’re in extreme pain and all they’re asking to do is to take medicine for their pain,” Corry said.
In a case from Routt County, Don Nord of Hayden is awaiting a federal judge’s decision on whether to uphold a county judge’s contempt citation for members of a law-enforcement task force who refused to return marijuana they seized from him.
Suthers said federal law agencies don’t have the resources to focus on people who abide by the restrictions of the medical marijuana law, which limits them to growing six marijuana plants or possessing 2 ounces of the drug if they have a state certificate.
“For most marijuana cases, 100 plants is the threshold for federal prosecution,” said Suthers, who has said he will defend the Colorado law despite his belief it is “terrible public policy.”
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said federal prosecutors in Colorado are focusing on large-scale drug rings, but if investigators come across marijuana in possession of certified state users, they will seize it ” just as they have always done.
Since the state began issuing medical marijuana certificates, one person with a certificate has been convicted of a drug violation. Last summer, James Scruggs was sentenced to six years in prison for growing 293 marijuana plants, far more than what is allowed under state law.
State officials said no decision had been made on whether to continue issuing certificates.
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