U.S. attorney: Move marijuana case | SteamboatToday.com
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U.S. attorney: Move marijuana case

Susan Cunningham

The U.S. Attorney’s Office called factual and legal arguments for not moving a Hayden resident’s medicinal marijuana case to a federal court “frivolous” and “plainly wrong.”

The response, filed Tuesday by U.S. Attorney John Suthers, encouraged U.S. District Court Judge Walker Miller to move a case involving contempt charges filed against police officers. The six officers were held in contempt by a Routt County judge because they seized marijuana used for medicinal purposes by Hayden resident Don Nord and did not give the drug back as ordered.

One of the officers is a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent, and the others are members of the the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team federal task force.

The case has highlighted conflicting state and federal laws. According to a voter-approved rule, Colorado allows use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Under federal rules, the drug is illegal for everyone.

In a response filed last week by Steamboat Springs attorney Kristopher Hammond, who is representing Nord, Hammond argued that the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked for removal too late and said the case should remain in the Colorado court system because officers involved should follow state, not federal law.

In its reply, the U.S. Attorney’s Office states that Nord has not shown why the case should not be removed to a federal court and that his arguments do not hold.

Removal to a federal court is authorized when a state court is attempting to hold a federal officer in contempt, as is the case here, the reply states.

The request for removal did not come too late, contrary to Nord’s arguments, the reply states, and even if it did, removal could still take place.

To Nord’s charge that the officers are using the federal court to appeal a decision they didn’t like — the contempt citations — the U.S. Attorney replied that that argument doesn’t hold under any legal theory.

“They did not wait to see what would happen in state court with regard to contempt and then belatedly seek the intervention of this court,” the reply states.

To the heart of Nord’s argument, which states that the officers were not acting “under color of federal law,” the reply states that they were.

“They were deputized federal agents. They worked 100 percent of their time for the DEA. At all times they were under the direction of DEA supervisors,” the reply states. “They were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing as federal agents and were operating within the scope of their employment.”

The U.S. attorney’s reply then argues that the contempt hearings should be taken from the state court and removed to a federal court, and that the contempt citations should be dismissed.

Judge Miller will consider both responses and decide whether to remove the case to federal court.


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