Medical marijuana evidence stays with MCSO for now

September 06, 2004

Scott Schwebke , Montrose Daily Press

The Montrose County Sheriff's Office is awaiting a court order before it returns confiscated pot to a man who claims to be a registered medical marijuana caregiver.

Sheriff Warren Waterman said the MCSO is faced with an unusual situation in having to give back marijuana to 53-year-old Michael Branson.

'It's tremendously different than any other case (handled by the MCSO),' Waterman said. 'We are not in the habit of returning contraband to someone. In this case, we believe the individual appears to be registered with the state and we are probably going to have to give it (some of the seized marijuana) back, but we are not going to do it without a court order.'

MCSO personnel arrested Branson Aug. 18, on suspicion of marijuana cultivation after finding pot growing in a garden at his Pea Green residence.

Prosecutors decided last week not to file charges against Branson because the evidence seized from his property is inadmissible in court.

Branson has said he is registered with the state to grow medical marijuana for a 44-year-old Eckert area woman who has multiple sclerosis.

Branson was arrested because MCSO personnel discovered 22 plants on his property, which is 16 more than allowed under the state's medical marijuana statute.

Branson said he was growing more pot than allowed by the state because he is attempting to become a registered medical marijuana patient himself and a caregiver for another individual.

To be listed on the state's medical marijuana registry, a patient must obtain certification from a licensed Colorado physician that they have been diagnosed with a debilitating condition that may be alleviated by marijuana.

Registered medical marijuana patients or caregivers can possess no more than two ounces of useable marijuana and not more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants.

MCSO Investigator Bill Smith, who has been working on the case involving Branson, said he plans to meet with officials from the 7th Judicial District Attorney's Office this week to discuss steps for returning some of the seized marijuana.

The MCSO is waiting on a court order before it releases the pot to ensure all legal bases are covered because federal law enforcement officials do not recognize Colorado's medical marijuana statute, he said.

Contact Scott Schwebke via e-mail at scotts@montrosepress.com.



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