Feds back down in medical pot case

August 26, 2004

Hector Gutierrez, Rocky Mountain News

An Aurora man suffering from chronic pain won a major victory Thursday when the federal government agreed to return all of his marijuana-growing equipment.

The assistant U.S. attorney also told the lawyer for medical-marijuana user Dana May that they will not prosecute May for any crime. But the pot that the Drug Enforcement Administration and Aurora police seized from May's Aurora home will stay in the possession of federal authorities.

Supporters of medical marijuana said they believe it marks the first time that the U.S. attorney has agreed to return growing equipment to someone who has been cleared of wrongdoing.

'This case is precedent-setting and a very sympathetic case and just a terrible example of the federal government not recognizing that this is where the state of the law is going and where patients are going,' Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said.

May and his lawyer, Robert J. Corry Jr., will appear at a hearing this morning in Arapahoe County District Court where they will tell the judge that they will drop their civil lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department demanding that it return May's marijuana-producing equipment.

May, 45, said he had feared a long, drawn-out fight with the U.S. attorney's office and the DEA.

'I just about fell off my chair when my lawyer told me,' he said. 'I thought he was joking. He said, 'We got a victory here,' and 'They're going to give you your stuff back.' '

After today's hearing, May said he plans to notify the DEA that he will pick up his equipment within 48 hours. Agents had confiscated 31 pieces of equipment from May's home, including transformers, water pumps, cloning machines and exhaust fans that he used to grow marijuana.

He called it a bittersweet victory and complained that anti-drug personnel should spend their resources and time pursuing cocaine and heroin traffickers. 'They would be better off going that route rather than going after little pot growers like me,' May said.

May said he will try to resume growing marijuana as soon as possible at an undisclosed location.

'I think this is a big step because with the DEA giving my equipment back they know what I'm going to do with it, and it's like they're condoning it,' he said. 'There aren't any options about what I'm going to do with it. I'm not going to grow tomatoes.'

Jeffrey Dorschner, spokesman for the District of Colorado U.S. attorney, said federal prosecutors decided not to pursue a civil forfeiture case against May after concluding that his equipment had minimal value.

May's doctor signed the legal forms required for May to grow and smoke pot in 2002. May suffers from chronic pain in his legs and feet as a result of a 1995 accident.

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