Medical marijuana raids by DEA, "arrest everybody" comments by agent Jeff Sweetin

By chillinwill · Feb 25, 2010 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Medical marijuana raids by DEA, "arrest everybody" comments by agent Jeff Sweetin prompt Jared Polis letter to U.S. Attorney General

    Last week, we shared with you a letter medical marijuana advocate Rob Corry sent to the U.S. Inspector General regarding the Drug Enforcement Administration raid on Highlands Ranch medical marijuana grower Chris Bartkowicz.

    Now, someone's sent another letter -- this one addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and copied to a certain President Barack Obama -- asking that Corry's complaints and concerns be addressed. That person? Representative Jared Polis.

    The missive, originally posted on, finds Polis wading into the conflict between the Colorado constitution and federal drug policy that Bartkowicz attorney Joseph Saint-Veltri discussed at length in this space on Monday. Polis spokeswoman Lara Cottingham explains why he took this unusual step.

    "Congressman Polis believes these raids are in contradiction to the will of the voters of Colorado and are an unwarranted federal intervention in the doctor patient relationship," Cottingham notes via e-mail. "President Obama has clearly stated his position on respecting states that have voted to allow medical marijuana, and the recent raids are contrary to that policy. Congressman Polis feels these actions strike fear into the hearts of many medical marijuana patients who are already dealing with chronic pain and suffering and must be stopped."

    The letter specifically addresses recent published comments by DEA special agent Jeff Sweetin, a recent Westword interview subject, as well as the decision to charge Bartkowicz with federal violations -- an action defended by U.S. Attorney David Gaouette in another Westword post.

    Here's what Polis had to say:

    Attorney General Eric Holder U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20530-0001

    Dear Attorney General Holder:

    As you know, the voters in my state legalized marijuana for medical use, and placed it in the Colorado Constitution, Article XVIII § 14, the Supreme Law of Colorado.

    The Department of Justice is to be commended for issuing formal written guidelines on October 19, 2009, clarifying that federal resources should not be used against people in compliance with state law in states that have legalized marijuana for medical use. When drug czar Gil Kerlikowske was in Colorado recently, I thanked him for taking this step and respecting our state law.

    Despite these formal guidelines, Friday, February 12, 2010, agents from the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided the home of medical marijuana caregiver Chris Bartkowicz in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. In a news article in the Denver Post the next day, the lead DEA agent in the raid, Jeffrey Sweetin, claimed "We're still going to continue to investigate and arrest people...Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law," he said. "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. They're violating federal law; they're at risk of arrest and imprisonment."

    Agent Sweetin's comment that "we arrest everybody" is of great concern to me and to the people of Colorado, who overwhelmingly voted to allow medical marijuana. Coloradans suffering from debilitating medical conditions, many of them disabled, elderly, veterans, or otherwise vulnerable people, have expressed their concern to me that the DEA will come into medical marijuana dispensaries, which are legal under Colorado law, and "arrest everybody" present. Although Agent Sweetin reportedly has backed away from his comments, he has yet to issue a written clarification or resign, thus the widespread panic in Colorado continues.

    On May 14, 2009, Mr. Kerlikowske told the Wall Street Journal: "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country." The actions and commentary of Mr. Sweetin are inconsistent with the idea of not waging war against the people of the State of Colorado and are a contradiction to your agency's laudable policies.

    On Saturday, February 13, 2010, local Attorney Robert J. Corry, Jr. submitted a formal complaint regarding the raid and subsequent comments by Sweetin to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, which is tasked with investigating "waste, fraud, abuse, or misconduct" from Justice officials. I ask you to instruct the Inspector General to respond promptly to Mr. Corry's complaint.

    On Tuesday, February 17, 2010, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado David Gaouette announced his office's intention to criminally charge Mr. Bartkowicz in federal court. In order to ensure a fair trial for Mr. Bartkowicz, it is essential that the confusion about administration policy caused by the actions of Agent Sweetin be resolved ahead of jury selection in this case. A response to Mr. Corry's complaint would serve as point of clarity.

    I again applaud your policy. Treating drug policy as primarily an issue of public health, as opposed to an issue of criminal justice, is both practical and compassionate and it has been and will continue to be supported by the voters of Colorado. Please clarify for me in writing whether Agent Sweetin's comments that DEA will "arrest everybody" remains United States policy. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

    Jared Polis
    Member of Congress

    cc: President Barack Obama

    By Michael Roberts
    February 25, 2010

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  1. Samadhi
    This is a nice turn, someone sticking their elected career out on the chopping block to do what their state has voted and passed. A politician doing the will of the people... hmm....

    Federal agencies need to start getting a little more in touch with how our government is run and realize that states have the right to pass their own laws on certain issues without the federal government imposing their will upon the voters and 'arresting them all'

    Medical cannabis is one of the issues that is going to hopefully see some heated debate from both the supporting and against side on the practice of selling, growing and perscribing medical marijuana to users who can benefit from the effects. One of the problems is that people see medical cannabis users as just stoners looking for a way to legally smoke weed, when a good deal of people may smoke their medicine daily, it helps them cope with whatever they are dealing with for a number of issues. It may not cure them, but neither do the other medicines behind the counter at the pharmacy, they just hold off the symptoms till they are over or you are dead. Swim finds it ironic that people are given medicines to treat symptoms of illness or pain after surgery that will do more irreparable harm to the body than cannabis ever will, but it is still demonized the same way it was with 'reefer madness' with facts from a handful of singular studies run by the companies that keep marijuana legislation out of our shiny white court rooms.

    Swim thinks that anti-cannabis legislative and groups either need to put up, or shut up, there are hundreds of positive studies on the effects of cannabinoids in humans, and with all the 1940's-2000's propaganda being disproved in countless studies, but yet we still hear the same arguments towards why it should be illegal.

    This issue is one swim looks forward to seeing to the end.
  2. chillinwill
    Polis Calls On Holder To Rein In 'Rogue' DEA Agents

    Rep. Jared Polis has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to look into whether the Drug Enforcement Administration acted inappropriately and in defiance of federal government policy by raiding and arresting a small medical marijuana grower in Colorado.

    Polis, a freshman Democrat who represents the state, told HuffPost that he also met with Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and pressed him on the issue.

    "I was very impressed with him," said Polis. Now he's working on Holder.

    In February, Holder said that the Justice Department would not arrest or prosecute people for drug law violations if they are following state medical marijuana laws. The department issued a memo to that effect in October.

    The DEA raid and subsequent comments from top special agent Jeffrey Sweetin that the drug warriors would "arrest everybody" created a climate of "widespread panic" in Colorado, Polis wrote to Holder in a letter this week. He asked the AG to clarify in writing whether the department's policy was still in effect.

    The man captured in the raid has been charged by the U.S. Attorney for intent to distribute drugs.

    "It seems like there is a disconnect between the field and the White House policy," Polis told HuffPost. "You have rogue agents like the one in Colorado, like Jeff Sweetin, that are going around, that are making statements that are scaring people, and that are disrupting a doctor-patient relationship that is sanctioned by the people of Colorado."

    Medical marijuana is legal as part of Colorado's constitution.

    "I think clearly the Attorney General and Washington need to have more clear guidelines and they need to enforce those guidelines nationally so that no other agents step out of line and scare people who are following state laws," said Polis.

    The DEA was alerted to the defendant's pot-growing operation because he gave an interview to a local TV station. "Sometimes there's a subculture within law enforcement that seeks enforcement for the sake of enforcement. And serious law enforcement professionals need to put a stop to that," said Polis.

    "The voters overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana law, and regardless of what Coloradoans feel about medical marijuana, they overwhelmingly agree that the federal government should not intervene with what we believe to be a state and local decision," he said.

    Polis compared the situation to alcohol enforcement -- even if the grower broke state law, as the DEA insists, that is an issue that should be left to the state. "Until recently, Colorado had blue laws so we weren't allowed to have liquor stores open on Sunday," said Polis. "I didn't see any federal agents raid liquor stores on Sunday. That was a state issue and so is this."

    Ryan Grim
    February 26, 2010
    Huffington Post
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