Pubdate: Sat, 31 Jan 2004
Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Copyright: 2004, Denver Publishing Co.
Author: Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The clash over federal and state marijuana laws reached a federal
courtroom in Denver on Thursday as lawyers debated whether the
government has to give a sick Hayden man's pot back to him.

A task force of nine agents led by the Drug Enforcement Administration
stormed the townhome of Don Nord, 57, on Oct. 14, seizing about 5
ounces of marijuana - including three plants - growing equipment and
drug paraphernalia.

But Nord, who suffers from diabetes and lost a kidney to cancer last
year, holds a state certificate permitting him to use marijuana for
medicinal reasons. Nord was nevertheless issued a summons for
misdemeanor marijuana possession, instructing him to appear in Routt
County Court on Nov. 4.

The government lost its copy of that citation, however, neglected to
file it with the court by that date, and so the drug possession case
against Nord was dismissed.

On Dec. 8, Routt County Judge James Garrecht issued an order for the
federal government to return 2 ounces of Nord's marijuana, the
possession amount permitted for medicinal use in Colorado.

The DEA returned his growing equipment but refused to turn over the
pot or pipes with which to smoke it. Federal law does not recognize
any legal use of marijuana outside of government-sanctioned research,
nor does it honor state laws, such as Colorado's, that permit its
consumption with a doctor's approval.

Nord's lawyer, Kristopher Hammond, of Steamboat Springs, asked
Garrecht to find the task force members in contempt for defying his
order to give Nord back his pot. In response, the U.S. Attorney's
Office has turned to the federal courts, asking a federal judge to
assume jurisdiction on the issue.

As lawyers for both sides argued Thursday before U.S. District Judge
Walker Miller, Nord - in casual attire and with a portable oxygen
supply assisting his labored breathing - watched the debate silently.

Before the hearing, Nord said, "I thought I was doing the right thing"
by growing marijuana for medical use. "I thought I was able to do this
because the state said I could do it."

A pack of Marlboro 100s visible in his pocket, Nord - who lives on
$655 in monthly Social Security disability payments - admitted to
smoking about 10 cigarettes a day. He also hasn't stopped smoking pot
while waiting for his confiscated marijuana to be returned.

"There are some people who heard about me and gave me some at
Christmas time," he said. "And another friend came by in January with
a care package."

Nord said that so great is his pain - he says he's on 23 different
medications, including pot - "If I didn't smoke marijuana, I don't
think I could get any rest."

Meanwhile, a hearing on potential contempt charges against the
government is scheduled for Monday afternoon in Routt County Court.

Hammond told Miller on Thursday that he will ask Garrecht to postpone
that hearing, enabling the lawyers to present Miller with more
complete arguments concerning the jurisdictional dispute.

But Miller cautioned Hammond that if the judge did not grant a
postponement of Monday's county court hearing by noon today, he will
issue a ruling to settle the court turf battle before the scheduled
start of Monday's session before Garrecht in Routt County.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin