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Appeals court orders return of man's medical marijuana

By: LANCE BENZEL
November 15, 2012
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	 Photo by The Gazette file
Photo by The Gazette file 

Call it a pot bust in reverse.

The Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that Colorado Springs police must return more than 60 pounds of marijuana they seized from a cancer patient who was later acquitted at trial of drug charges.

Bob Crouse, 64, is scheduled to pick up his medical marijuana — some $300,000 worth — on Friday afternoon.

The marijuana has been kept at the downtown Police Operations Center since Crouse’s May 2011 arrest on charges of drug possession with the intent to distribute. Crouse uses marijuana oil in the treatment of his leukemia.

District Court Judge Timothy J. Schutz on Nov. 9 affirmed an order the marijuana must be returned in the wake of an acquittal at Crouse’s June trial. But El Paso County prosecutors were granted a temporary stay by the Court of Appeals after arguing police could be at risk of being charged under federal law.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel agreed to hear the District Attorney’s appeal — even as it ordered that Crouse’s marijuana must be returned.

According to Crouse’s attorney, the Court of Appeals will look at the larger issue of whether the courts may order local governments to return medical marijuana after unsuccessful prosecutions.

“This is going to create case law for future cases,” said attorney Clifton Black of Colorado Springs.

District Attorney’s spokeswoman Lee Richards said the office pursued the appeal at the request of Colorado Springs police.

The legal wrangling is unlikely to produce usable medicine for Crouse, however.

During last week’s hearing before Schutz, Black said that much, if not all, of Crouse’s marijuana is likely to be spoiled.

Police cut down 55 marijuana plants believed to contain a pound each of formerly usable marijuana. They also seized six pounds of refined pot. The marijuana has a shelf life of about six months and is unusable after a year, Crouse said.

"We believe the marijuana is totally worthless and we're concerned it may be moldy and a health hazard," Black said.

With medical marijuana advocates filling the courtroom, Schutz scoffed at the notion federal agencies would target police for executing a court order, and suggested that police were actually concerned over civil liability.

Black said Crouse won’t decide whether to sue until he has a chance to examine the marijuana.

Contact Lance Benzel: 636-0366 Twitter @lancebenzel

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