Updated: October 13, 2009 at 12:00 am
Marijuana’s pungent odor filled the lobby at Colorado Springs police headquarters Tuesday afternoon as former drug suspect Stephan Thomas showed off nearly a half pound of the drug he reclaimed from police custody.
“Liberating medicine!” his attorney, Robert J. Corry Jr. of Denver, cried out as the pair emerged from a back room holding three large Mason jars filled or partially filled with aromatic marijuana buds.
The surreal tableau inside the Police Operations Center on South Nevada Avenue unfolded before a small group of medical marijuana users and their supporters and marked the end of what Corry described as the latest battle over dueling interpretations of the state’s 9-year-old medical marijuana laws.
At issue, Corry said: Whether the constitutional amendment voters ratified in 2000 limits medical marijuana providers to possessing 2 ounces of the drug per patient, or whether, as Corry contends, the law merely includes that amount as a “guideline.”
“The law says you can have whatever is necessary medically,” said Corry, a medical marijuana advocate who says he has defended more than 100 people who were charged with crimes while following the controversial law, including a Boulder man recently acquitted at trial in an unrelated case.
Thomas, 26, of Fountain, was arrested at a traffic stop in December 2008 even though he presented his medical marijuana registration card and signed documents showing that he was the caregiver — or a lawfully appointed supplier — for several medical marijuana users, court documents show.
Dan Zook, an assistant district attorney in the Fourth Judicial District, said the paperwork was incomplete and out of date.
Thomas disputed that claim, and said detectives with the Colorado Springs police Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Unit scoffed when he protested that he was a caregiver: “They kept laughing and saying, ‘Medical marijuana is not real. You don’t know what you got yourself into.’”
Authorities seized just less than 8 ounces — about $4,000 worth of marijuana — and $3,500 in cash, court documents showed.
The felony case against Thomas was dropped Oct. 5, and a judge in Colorado Springs ordered that his marijuana and money be returned. Colorado Springs police referred questions about the dropped charges to the District Attorney’s Office. Zook said the decision was made after a district attorney’s investigator interviewed Thomas’ clients.
Corry chalked it up to the law-enforcement community’s reluctance to follow the law.
“It’s inertia,” he said. “It’s business as usual and old habits dying hard. They’re trained to identify it and prosecute it, and that’s what they did.”
Thomas’ supply was about 40 grams lighter than when police seized it, his attorney claimed, a discrepancy police attributed to sending some of the drug to a lab for testing.
Gazette writer John Ensslin contributed to this report.