Dropped charges in medical pot case called 'huge victory'

December 17, 2007

Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News (CO)

Chalk up another one for supporters of medical marijuana.

Two weeks after a judge in Fort Collins ordered that 39 pot plants seized from a couple be returned to them, an Aurora man is banking on the same outcome.

Felony drug charges against Kevin Dickes, 39, a state-certified medical marijuana user and Desert Storm veteran, were dropped Friday by 18th Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers. He could have faced six years in prison.

"It was somewhat of a surprise for us," Dickes' attorney Robert Corry Jr. said. "This is a huge victory - a decisive victory. The times they are a-changin'. It's time for police to figure out that medical marijuana is legal."

On Monday, Dickes and his attorneys filed a motion in Arapahoe District Court to get the 71 plants seized April 27 from his Aurora basement returned. Police have said the plants are dead.

A constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 allows the use of marijuana to alleviate pain and symptoms of various illnesses. The law also stipulates that medical marijuana or plants seized from state-certified patients during criminal investigations be returned in good shape at the end of court cases.

"He was carefully and meticulously cultivating this. Mr. Dickes should get his medicine back," Corry said.

Marijuana recently returned to state-registered medical marijuana patients James and Lisa Masters in Fort Collins was moldy, and only a small amount could be used for medicinal purposes. The couple plan to sue to recoup the value of the marijuana.

The Drug Enforcement Agency attaches a $5,200 price tag to each pound of pot. If that standard applies, Dickes' confiscated stash is estimated at $369,200.

Dickes suffers from chronic vascular disease and pain from shrapnel injuries. The decorated Marine said pharmaceutical narcotics have made him sick.

Police - unaware of Dickes' status as a registered user of medical marijuana - executed a search warrant in April and put him in handcuffs in his driveway.

"This means to people in my neighborhood I'm not a criminal," Dickes said. "I'm a decent, law- abiding citizen."

Aurora Detective Shannon Lucy said the episode could have been avoided if Dickes had told authorities he was licensed.

"We probably wouldn't have taken him into custody and we wouldn't have destroyed the plants," Lucy said.

After he was taken to jail, his girlfriend alerted authorities to his status. Police left 4 ounces of marijuana and six plants in his home, as well as all his growing equipment, she said.

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