U.S. COURT EYES AGENT'S REFUSAL TO RETURN POT
A federal judge has taken over jurisdiction of a case that grew out of
a federal narcotics agent's refusal to return a Hayden man's
U.S. District Judge Walker Miller on Tuesday moved the
contempt-of-court case from Routt County Court in Steamboat Springs to
his Denver court. The case will decide if federal narcotics agents can
be held in contempt of court for disobeying state court orders.
In October, federal agents raided the apartment of Don Nord, 57, who
has a valid Colorado medical marijuana registry card allowing him to
smoke the drug legally to alleviate pain from cancer, phlebitis and
diabetes. One Drug Enforcement Administration agent and five local law
enforcement officers confiscated marijuana plants, loose marijuana,
and growing and smoking paraphernalia.
Subsequently, Nord's attorney, Kristopher Hammond, showed Routt County
Judge James Garrecht a copy of Nord's registry card. The district
attorney's office refused to file charges against Nord, and Garrecht
ordered the agents to return the paraphernalia and 2 ounces of
marijuana, the amount Nord can possess legally.
The agents returned all but the marijuana. DEA agent Doug Cortinovis
argued that marijuana is contraband under federal law and that his job
is to enforce only federal laws. (Colorado allows the use of marijuana
by authorized patients, but federal law still forbids it.)
Hammond then filed a motion to hold Cortinovis in contempt. Garrecht
issued a citation and ordered Cortinovis to argue why he shouldn't be
held in contempt.
The U.S. attorney's office quickly asked that the case be sent to
federal court, which Miller granted. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that the chief purpose of one section of U.S. law is "to
prevent federal officers who simply comply with a federal duty from
being punished by a state court. ..."
The U.S. attorney's office has filed a motion that the case be
dismissed by Miller. Miller has given Nord's attorney until March 29
to file arguments why it shouldn't be.
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