Pubdate: Fri, 26 Mar 2010
Source: Fort Collins Coloradoan (CO)
Copyright: 2010 The Fort Collins Coloradoan
Author: Trevor Hughes


Colorado's top gardening experts have been ordered to ignore 
questions about how to grow medical marijuana over fears they could 
lose their federal funding.

Employees of CSU's Extension service have been advised by university 
lawyers that because marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal 
law, they cannot be involved with it. That means, according to the 
lawyers, no advice, no opinions and definitely no pot in their offices.

Colorado State University spokesman Brad Bohlander said "several" 
extension offices received inquires from would-be marijuana growers. 
He said the conflict between Colorado's Amendment 20 and federal law 
prompted CSU to issue the new guidelines.

"Some of the agents didn't want anything to do with it," Bohlander said.

Extension agents of CSU have offices in almost every county and 
provide a conduit between academia and the state's agricultural 
community. Extension also certifies "master gardeners" who give yard 
and gardening advice.

Master gardener Bill Ciesla of Fort Collins said no one has asked him 
for marijuana-growing advice, and he said he wouldn't offer any.

"I wouldn't touch it," Ciesla said.

Under Colorado's voter-approved Amendment 20, Colorado residents can 
grow and consume small amounts of marijuana for medical reasons. 
That's created a booming business: Marijuana is easy to grow, but 
raising and harvesting potent pot requires expertise, according to 
marijuana dispensary owners.

Dispensary owners say the majority of the marijuana they sell is 
grown locally, generally under grow lights in garages, warehouses and 
basements. Amendment 20 has also spawned the opening of stores 
selling the grow lights and hydroponic systems favored by marijuana growers.

Master gardeners share CSU-published research and recommendations, 
but Ciesla said the extension service hasn't yet published any 
pot-growing guidelines.

"And I don't envision CSU Extension publishing anything like that," 
Ciesla said.

The extension service also offers diagnostic services for gardeners, 
who can bring in unhealthy plants to learn what's causing the problems.

In the memo, CSU lawyers noted that the university is a drug-free 
workplace and said any marijuana brought in to extension offices will 
be turned over to authorities for destruction. The attorneys noted 
that any extension employees or master gardeners ignoring the rules 
and aiding marijuana growers will assume "personal liability" for any 
legal action brought against them.

"The bottom line is that (under federal law) it's still illegal," 
Bohlander said. 
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