Pubdate: Wed, 24 Aug 2016
Source: Colorado Springs Independent (CO)
Column: Cannabiz
Copyright: 2016 Colorado Springs Independent
Author: Nat Stein


Huge bust halts MMJ grower

On Aug. 18, the Colorado Springs Metro Vice, Narcotics and 
Intelligence division assisted with the execution of three search 
warrants that resulted in the arrest of one person and the seizure of 
537 marijuana plants, three firearms, ammunition and an undisclosed 
amount of cash. The raid took place within city limits and included 
agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Georgia 
Bureau of Investigation.

Felipe Hurtado, the 51-year-old man arrested, had six outstanding 
felony warrants in Georgia in connection with the 2014 theft of 
around 8.9 million hydrocodone tablets - an opioid medication that's 
widely prescribed and highly addictive. According to CSPD's statement 
following the bust, Hurtado was associated with an unspecified 
criminal organization and fled to "the general area of Colorado 
Springs [...] to grow marijuana under the pretext of medical marijuana."

Another raid the same day in Briargate netted 24 plants from a home, 
but law enforcement agencies have released no further information. 
KKTV reported that the house has been condemned.

This news comes amid a string of marijuana-related busts along the 
Front Range as law enforcement officials crack down on abuses of the 
medical marijuana system. Under the recreational provision to 
Colorado's constitution, adults over 21 years old can grow and 
possess up to six marijuana plants. But the medical side is a little 
hazier, with language allowing for an amount of marijuana that's 
"medically necessary."

That affirmative defense has held up in court - locally, most 
notably, in the case of leukemia patient and cannabis activist Bob 
Crouse - but isn't as strong as a right, much to the chagrin of 
advocates pushing to keep patients' access to medicine unrestricted 
by municipal laws like the Springs' 12-plant limit.

While 537 is illegal anywhere (the statewide limit for medical 
homegrows is 99 plants), the number of plants citizens should be able 
to grow in their own homes is the topic of much debate. The Denver 
Post editorial board recently weighed in, writing in late July that 
"it strikes us as unreasonable and irresponsible to believe that a 
single patient would need access to 75 cannabis plants or more at any 
one time."

Acknowledging that it takes a lot of flower to extract oils for 
non-smoking forms of delivery and that tolerance increases over time, 
the Post concluded that "we'd also be dopes to believe that no one 
with that amount of marijuana would ever be tempted to engage in 
black-market or underground sales."

As of July, just under 4 percent of the state's 102,620 registered 
medical marijuana patients have physician recommendations for more 
than 75 plants. Just over 1 percent are recommended for 50 to 75 
plants, while nearly 80 percent of patients are recommended for up to 
six plants.

Activists with the local Cannabis Patient Rights Coalition are 
planning another demonstration outside the City Administration 
Building for Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. The city's plant count 
ordinance is likely to be a focal point for caregivers, patients and 
supporters who feel that government efforts to stamp out bad actors 
is no reason to punish the good ones. A handful are contemplating legal action.

Still suspended

The four Colorado physicians accused of over-recommending medical 
marijuana will go through administrative hearings this week after a 
Denver District Court judge reversed course and reinstated their suspensions.

The Colorado Medical Board first suspended the doctors' licenses last 
month, citing documentation that shows they improperly signed off on 
recommendations for more than 1,500 patients to grow at least 75 
plants each. The doctors sued, arguing they never got the chance to 
defend themselves and that the allegations appeared based on a 
nonexistent, arbitrary standard. Judge Ross Buchanan initially took 
the doctors' side, temporarily blocking the suspensions and allowing 
them to practice medicine but not recommend medical marijuana.

But last week Buchanan reversed his decision, concluding he should've 
dismissed the case rather than granting the temporary injunction. Now 
the doctors will go through hearings to try to get their suspensions 
lifted. Their attorney, Rob Corry, told the Cannabist that he's not optimistic.

One of the accused doctors, William Stone, practiced locally at 
MedEval clinic on North Academy Boulevard.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom