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High Regard for Medical Pot Law


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Source: Denver Post (CO)
Author: David Harsanyi, Denver Post Columnist
Published: Monday, December 06, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Denver Post Corp
Contact: [email protected]

Maybe it's just the contact high speaking, but there's little doubt in my mind that if marijuana were seriously and institutionally studied, Thomas Lawrence would have won a Nobel Prize by now.

As we're sitting around his dining room table, in an unassuming house tucked away in a middle-class Denver neighborhood, Thomas hits me with the least surprising confession I've ever heard: "Listen, Dave, I'm high right now."

Cats and dogs mill about in stupors, as Thomas then tries to explain cloning techniques, chemical compounds and ways to develop new, more effective, strands of cannabis.

I eye a timeworn bong in the kitchen, and that eye is getting more watery by the minute.

When I try to wheedle out quotes bolstering my case for federalism and against zealous federal agencies - in particular the Drug Enforcement Agency - Thomas is busy talking cultivation.

In fact, the more Thomas talks pot, the more keyed up he gets. (Well, as keyed up as a guy who smokes a half-dozen joints a day can get.) A couple of minutes into my visit, I've learned that cannabis can essentially cure all the world's ills: Our clothing needs, our reliance on fossil fuels and around 60 percent of our pharmaceutical dependency.

And anyway, he explains, with a smile, "no one grows weed like me."

Thomas, his wife, Larisa, and their partner Scott Fry, otherwise known as the "Colorado Compassion Club," have the state's permission to grow, possess and use marijuana. As designated caregivers, they provide medical pot to about 50 patients in Colorado. For cost.

Thomas gives me a full tour of his bright white, temperature controlled, artificially lit basement room where he cultivates strains called White Lighting and Bubble Gum. It's quite an extraordinary operation, considering he started it from scratch a couple of months ago.

In June, without a warrant, without a criminal charge filed, DEA officers burst into Thomas and Scott's houses and confiscated, among other things, 180 pot plants, lights, books, a ceramic heater, a ballast, grow lights and seeds.

It's no French Connection, but the property-evidence report is lengthy. Thomas estimates the DEA seized about $10,000 worth of equipment.

In 2000, Colorado voters authorized the use of marijuana to alleviate debilitating medical conditions like cancer, glaucoma and severe pain, including that caused by epilepsy, muscle spasms and multiple sclerosis.

The DEA, as it turns out, either hasn't heard of Amendment 20 or isn't particularly troubled by states' rights issues.

Or maybe Tom was a little too proficient at his gardening.

Whatever the motive, the DEA has failed to answer questions on why it ignored state law. It also has failed to return the confiscated material, which it is required to do under the law if no criminal charges are filed.

With the bust, the DEA also ensured that many Coloradans who use medical marijuana will have to go without.

As Tom and I speak, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a similar case and will decide whether users should be prosecuted under federal law for growing and using marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The feds argue that growing and using medical marijuana constitutes "interstate commerce" and remains under their jurisdiction.

Well, Thomas makes no money and doesn't sell to anyone out of state.

Although he may realize Ashcroft vs. Raich is a landmark case regarding constitutional restrictions on the power of the federal government, Thomas isn't what you'd describe as excessively nervous.

Maybe he's confident in the legal arguments or perhaps a drag of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol helped.

Either way, he's expanded operations with a makeshift greenhouse out back.

Also, the group has started making hash fudge, hard pot candy (raspberry), oral tincture (canna-berry), ointment, breads and non-intoxicating tea.

All in the name of medicine. Truly.

David Harsanyi's column appears Monday and Thursday.

Related Articles & Web Site:

Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News

Let States Decide Medicinal Pot Use

Medical Pot or Not? High Court To Decide

Sanity's AWOL in War on Drugs


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