Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marijuana dispensaries operate as usual, keep eye on raid

Despite comments from the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief Denver
agent that all marijuana is illegal and that there's no such thing as
medicinal marijuana, Fort Collins medical marijuana dispensary owners
say they are forging ahead with business as usual.

"There's always a worry because there is a lot of gray areas, but we are
following all the rules we can," said Drew Brown, co-owner of Abundant
Healing in Fort Collins.

Brown, who appeared last week on the front page of the Coloradoan with
about 100 medical marijuana plants behind him, said he has been paying
very close attention to the DEA's raid of a Highlands Ranch medical
marijuana grow.

DEA Agent Jeffrey D. Sweetin told reporters after the raid at the home
of Christopher Bartkowicz that technically every medical marijuana
dispensary in the state is in "blatant violation of federal law."

Federal law does not allow the use or growth of medical marijuana.

"The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their
profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody," Sweetin told
the Denver Post after the raid at Bartkowicz's home. "They're violating
federal law; they're at risk of arrest and imprisonment."

And an arrest warrant sworn out by a DEA special agent indicates federal
law enforcement began investigating Bartkowicz after he was quoted in a
9news.com story describing his grow as a "jungle of electrical wires and
water hoses from room to room."

When federal agents searched the home, located about 1,000 feet from a
school, they found 224 medical marijuana plants. Bartkowicz was only
able to produce documents permitting him to grow as many as 72 plants,
according to the arrest warrant.

"When it turns out in the end that this guy was a total idiot,
I'm not that concerned any more," Brown said. "He was
growing too much, and he was next to a school. The list of things he did
wrong is probably even longer than what I know."

Like Brown, Don Cruickshank, owner of A Kind Place in Fort Collins, said
he's confident he has a good relationship with local law enforcement
and has nothing to hide.

"I've always gotten along with the police and everybody,"
Cruickshank said. "We don't really want to make it harder on the

Cruickshank also said he's followed news about Bartkowicz's
arrest and believes his flaw was he was too focused on profits and not

"If people do the right thing and they don't come out with all
this commercial glory, then they would be OK," he said. "He got
away from this medical thing and got into a commercial thing. If not for
the patients, then none of this would be possible. Others don't
realize these things, and it's all about the power of commercial,
but not for me."

Brown echoed Cruick-shank's sentiments.

"The difference is I'm not out here speaking about how much
money we're making or bragging about anything," he said.
"I'm more out there to let people know we're doing things
honestly and doing everything to code with all the guidelines so

And Brown said he and his business partners have decided to invite local
law enforcement into their business and to take them to their grow site,
which is in a warehouse building at a separate location from their Old
Town dispensary.

"We're not hiding anything with this grow," he said.

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