Feds seize woman’s medical marijuana

April 11, 2007

Associated Press, Great Falls Tribune

A Missoula woman worries she will be forced to buy marijuana from street dealers after federal agents seized a package of medical marijuana that was being delivered to her.

“I don’t know how many times I have to fight for this before I can get some peace and not violate any laws,” said Robin Prosser, who said medical marijuana is the only thing that helps her manage the pain from a lupus-related immunosuppressive disorder.

Patients and Families United, a Montana group of medical-marijuana patients, relatives and friends, called on the state’s congressional delegation today “to take decisive and forceful action to stop the federal government’s persecution of suffering medical-marijuana patients in need.”

The Montana Medical Marijuana Act, passed in November 2004, allows patients to use marijuana if they suffer from diseases like cancer, glaucoma and HIV, or if they have chronic pain. Those who are prescribed medical marijuana can grow their own or designate a caregiver to grow or obtain marijuana for them.

A package containing 20 grams of marijuana — less than an ounce — being sent to Prosser from her caregiver was seized by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency on March 30 even though the DEA verified with the Department of Public Health and Human Services that both Prosser and her caregiver were registered with the state.

“I don’t see how they can deny me a thing that saves my life,” Prosser said. “I can’t eat without it.”

Jeff Sweetin, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Rocky Mountain Field Division, said his agency was required to investigate after it received a complaint.

“From the DEA’s standpoint, it’s not medical marijuana, it’s just plain marijuana,” Sweetin said.

A UPS driver, apparently noting a strong odor of marijuana, flagged the package as “suspicious,” and the company’s security officer called 9-1-1.

Although Sweetin said Prosser almost certainly won’t face federal charges, the DEA is more inclined to prosecute caregivers, many of whom provide marijuana for more than one patient.

“Is she in violation of federal law? Absolutely. Will she be prosecuted? No,” Sweetin said. “But if you’re a caregiver shipping marijuana all over Montana, you stand a relatively good chance of experiencing federal prosecution.”

That’s a harsh reality for Prosser, who says it’s become increasingly difficult to find caregivers willing to risk federal charges. Her only alternative is to obtain marijuana from dealers on the street, which costs more and makes it impossible to settle on a consistent strain of the drug.

“I need a consistent, steady supply of the same strain,” Prosser said. “But it’s so hard to find a caregiver when the minimum punishment for growing and cultivating is five years under federal law.”

Prosser said she had been with her current caregiver less than two months prior to the DEA seizure, and isn’t sure where she’ll turn next.

“It was the first time I was able to find a consistent supply, so I don’t have to fear running out,” Prosser said.

Prosser said she has tried growing her own marijuana but was unsuccessful.

 



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