drug law

DEA Busts Legal Medical Marijuana Seller in Colorado

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By Radley Balko

Last Friday, the DEA raided a medical marijuana producer in Colorado. The story needs some fleshing out, but at the moment it appears that Chris Bartkowicz wasn't violating any state law. Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado. His offense appears to have been boasting about how much money he makes growing the drug for patients.

DEA agents converged on the house Friday afternoon and, before leaving several hours later, removed dozens of marijuana plants in black plastic trash bags as well as numerous high-powered growing lights.

On Thursday night, 9News promoted a story about Bartkowicz's operation, and on Friday morning, Bartkowicz was featured in a 9News story posted to its website and published in The Denver Post. The story was to air on television Friday night. He told the station he serves as a caregiver to a number of medical-marijuana patients and hoped to turn a profit this year in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I'm definitely living the dream now," Bartkowicz told 9News.

The DEA is not only unapologetic, they appear to be blatantly ignoring last year's directive from the Obama Justice Department instructing U.S. attorneys to allow medical marijuana growers and distributors to operate so long as they're complying with state law.

Along with the raid, Jeffrey Sweetin, the Drug Enforcement Administration's special agent in charge of the Denver office, sent a message to anyone involved in Colorado's increasingly profitable medical-marijuana industry.

"It's still a violation of federal law," Sweetin said. "It's not medicine. We're still going to continue to investigate and arrest people."

Bartkowicz is being held over the Presidents Day weekend while the office of Colorado U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette decides if he'll be charged.

Last October, both I and Jacob Sullum expressed skepticism about Obama's announcement to end the federal medical marijuana raids.

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