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Polis, Denver attorney give their take on fed pot letter

Denver attorney Robert Corry spoke out this week against federal scare tactics he said were being used to create uncertainty in Colorado’s medical marijuana community.

He also said there seemed to be a certain amount of cooperation between federal and state authorities to cast doubt on the legality of medical marijuana in Colorado.

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis urged the Justice Department to respect the laws of Colorado.

This campaign of fear on the part of the Obama Administration is reprehensible, even more so given our own Colorado Attorney General (former U.S. Attorney)’s apparent alliance with the Obama Administration against Colorado’s citizens,” said Corry in an email.

“State and local government employees should not fear federal persecution just for doing their jobs. Patients, caregivers, and marijuana businesses, similarly, should not fear for following Colorado’s Constitution and laws.

“The U.S. government should begin with prosecuting itself, specifically the Food and Drug Administration. Since 1978, the FDA has distributed medical marijuana to patients through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program.

“The feds should then move on to the government employees in the U.S. Congress, who recently legalized the medical use of marijuana in the District of Columbia. That bill was also signed by the President of the United States; medical marijuana would not be legal in D.C. without his signature,” Corry said in the email.

When reached by phone, he elaborated.

“I think these letters are designed to inspire fear,” he said. “I don’t think even one federal or state employee will ever be prosecuted. If they are looking for targets to prosecute, though, they should start with John Suthers. He is the chief legal officer for the state.”

Mike Saccone, communications director for the Colorado Attorney General’s office, said it is well established that the federal government has jurisdiction over drug enforcement in Colorado and all 50 states, and can intervene at will.

Corry expressed the opinion that the feds probably are not going to sweep into Colorado the way they have done in Montana. “They just want to upset us, to create discord, to create a lack of certainty. Business people want to know what the playing field looks like so they can make decisions based on that.”

One reason he thinks the feds won’t soon be raiding medical marijuana businesses in Colorado the way it was done in Montana is because the industry has been in place for about eight years longer than was the case in Montana.

“The cat is out of the bag in Colorado and it is not going back in. We have 10-11 years of history here,” he said.

As to the question of deciding who has a “serious illness” and who doesn’t, he said Colorado was very careful to define what constitutes eligibility to use medical marijuana and was also careful to designate medical doctors as the gatekeepers who determine whether someone qualifies for medical marijuana or not.

He said the idea that some people have “serious illnesses”, which is the language used by the Department of Justice, and so qualify, or that others “claim to be using marijuana for medical purposes”, which is the language used by Suthers in his letter to Hickenlooper is an “invented canard.”

He said both Walsh and Suthers are coming very close to “practicing medicine without a license, which is a felony” if they start trying to distinguish which patients are legitimate and which are not. “To say one patient qualifies and one doesn’t is a crock. These are smart guys, but they aren’t doctors. I can see where they are coming from, though. The media has painted a picture of medical marijuana patients as 20-something males with snowboarding injuries.”

Corry says that there are people who use medical marijuana recreationally, just as there are people who abuse oxycontin, percocet and other prescription drugs. “It is no more of a problem with marijuana than it is with any other medicine,” he said.

The question of who needs marijuana to treat a serious illness and who uses medical marijuana as a cover for recreational use comes against a backdrop of the National Institute of Health declaring that marijuana is powerful medicine. This, at the same time that large multinational pharmaceutical companies are working to gain marketshare for cannabis-based medicines.

The Colorado Independent has documented the stories of two Coloradans who have used medical marijuana, not for fun, but because their doctors told them it was their best shot at a normal life.

The federal government also holds a patent on medical marijuana, with at least one of the people named on the patent being an employee of the National Institute of Health.

He says that any serious effort to prosecute people in Colorado who are following Colorado law as established by constitutional amendment and by legislation, will “declaring war on voters and legislators. I am amazed that this is all coming from the Obama administration. Obama is causing far more trouble than Bush caused in eight years. You always thought Bush was against medical marijuana but he never did anything. Obama has been quite hostile. We embraced Obama. We thought he would be good for medical marijuana. The perception was that he would be easy to deal with, but it hasn’t been like that.”

“I hope the Justice Department will respect the laws passed by the voters of Colorado and the rules propagated by our General Assembly,” Polis said by email. “The Department should follow the principles it outlined in the Ogden memo: that those who are in clear compliance with state laws will not be raided. Colorado has the most robust regulatory structure in the country and our dispensaries are clearly operating under state law.”

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