Monday, March 22, 2004
Hearing or no hearing, a pro-medicinal marijuana group decided to protest the Don Nord case Monday afternoon in front of the Routt County Courthouse.
Almost a dozen people stood by the courthouse lawn Monday, holding signs condemning federal officers who seized medicinal marijuana from a Hayden man last fall and have refused to return it. A hearing on the case had been scheduled in Routt County Court on Monday, but it was cancelled after a federal judge moved the case to federal court.
The protesters, who came from the Denver and Boulder area, originally planned to come to Steamboat to protest the court hearing. When it was moved to federal court, the group decided to continue the protest.
Agua Das, who helped organized the protest through Compassionate Use Respects Everyone, asked what kind of precedent would have been set if the group decided not to come.
"We are not going to let the feds set our agenda," Das said. "We came up here anyway."
The group held signs criticizing the officers, chanted "Go Away DEA" and asked those passing by to sign petitions.
With car horns honking and the occasional shouts of approval, the protesters said their presence was well-received in Steamboat.
"I never felt more American," said Susan Squibb, who was wearing American-flag-print shorts. "We want to raise awareness, to keep the story alive. This case has potential to go to the Supreme Court. It is that important of an issue."
The case highlights conflicts between state and federal law. Under voter-approved Amendment 20, Colorado law allows use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Under federal law, the drug is illegal for everyone.
"It is appalling that this drug enforcement agency violated state law without a second thought," Louisville protester Randy Luallin said.
Nord, who is a registered marijuana user, went to court in November to ask for the return of marijuana and growing equipment seized from him in an Oct. 14 raid. Routt County Judge James Garrecht ordered the officers to return the drugs and equipment; the growing equipment was returned but not the marijuana.
At Nord's request, Garrecht held the officers in contempt of court, and the U.S. Attorney's Office entered the case, asking the case be heard in a federal court.
One of the officers held in contempt is an U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency employee and the others are members of the federal task force GRAMNET, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team.
Nord, wearing a string of fake marijuana leaves around his neck and toting his oxygen tank, was among those protesting Monday.
"It is wonderful for these people to do this," he said of the public show of support.