Posted by Michael Hughes February 25, 2010
An open letter from Representative Jared Polis to Attorney General Eric Holder after the illegal DEA raids on a medical marijuana grower in Colorado on February 12, 2010.
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.
Member of Congress
cc: President Barack Obama