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Marijuana grower to be released on bond

2:50 PM, Mar 22, 2010   |    comments
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Chris Bartkowicz appeared in federal court in downtown Denver Thursday afternoon. He is charged with one count of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

The magistrate judge said Bartkowicz will not be released until a home monitoring system is set up.

He must seek employment, refrain from alcohol and marijuana, submit to urinalysis testing and go through drug abuse testing while he awaits trial. A trial date has not been set.

Bartkowicz' attorney, Joseph Saint-Veltri, made a motion to preserve the plants taken from Bartkowicz's home by agents with the DEA. The magistrate said the plants are not being watered and are still sitting in boxes. A hearing was set for Friday morning to hear arguments on the issue.

Federal investigators say Bartkowicz had 224 plants in various stages of development at his Highlands Ranch home near C-470 and University Boulevard.

"He was in violation of federal laws and he had the intent to distribute marijuana," U.S. Attorney David Gaouette told 9Wants to Know Tuesday.

Gaouette said Bartkowicz wasn't following state medical marijuana laws either.

"He is in possession far in excess of what the state law allows a caregiver to have as far as marijuana," Gaouette said.

Gaouette said while he has more than 200 plants, Bartkowicz produced proof of only 12 patients he cared for.

State law allows caregivers to have six marijuana plants per patient. The law says people who have more can show "that such greater amounts were medically necessary to address the patient's debilitating medical condition."

If convicted, the charge carries a prison term of five to 40 years.

In a jail house interview Saturday, Bartkowicz said each plant he grew was medically necessary for him or his patients.

Bartkowicz, who has a medical marijuana license, said he believed his operation followed medical marijuana laws.

Bartkowicz said he believed federal agents would not target his grow operation after an October memo from the U.S. Attorney General's office to federal prosecutors setting marijuana guidelines for federal agents.

"The guidelines make clear that the focus of federal resources should not be on individuals whose actions are in compliance with existing state laws," said a press release on Oct. 19, 2009 from the U.S. Attorney General's office.

"...Prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources," wrote David Ogden, Deputy Attorney General in the memo.

The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus on significant traffickers of illegal drugs.

"...The disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the department's efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the department's investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives."

Special Agent in Charge of the Denver office of Drug Enforcement Administration Jeff Sweetin said Monday his agents will not target medical marijuana dispensaries unless there are unusual circumstances.

Click here to read 9Wants to Know's original story about Bartkowicz's grow operation.

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