The dissonance between state and federal laws can be a point of contention for individuals caught in the legal system. In Colorado, one of the best examples of state and federal differences concerns the use of marijuana.
Under federal laws, it is illegal to use, grow or sell marijuana, regardless of the intended use of the drugs. In Colorado, it is legal for individuals to grow and sell medical marijuana if they have a license, and individuals can use marijuana if they have a prescription. Problems come into play, however, when federal authorities get involved with local drug crimes. Chris, a man from Denver, is learning that lesson the hard way, as he was recently sentenced to five years in federal prison.
After 9NEWS interviewed Chris last year, a teaser video of his story was aired. Within 24 hours, investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were at the man's front door. They raided his home, confiscated marijuana plants and growing equipment, and charged him with felony marijuana possession.
Almost everything about his arrest caused a controversy in Colorado. In 2009, the Obama administration told federal law officials not to get involved with individuals who were operating legally under their own state laws. When that was brought up with regards to Chris's story, the DEA responded by stating they had reason to believe Chris was growing too much marijuana and therefore was not following Colorado law.
Given the amount of national attention this story has already garnered, we are likely to hear more developments on Chris's case, but there are certainly elements of his situation that we can learn from in the meantime. Given the differences in state and federal laws, individuals who are involved with medical marijuana operations would be well advised to work with authorities to help ensure their work stays within the local legal limits. More importantly, if you are operating a $500,000 medical marijuana plant in your basement, don't advertise it on the 9 p.m. news.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Chris Bartkowicz Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison," 28 January 2011