A man walked out of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office recently with his marijuana and a broken glass marijuana pipe that had been seized months earlier, ending a months-long process that has one attorney claiming that the district attorney’s office harassed his client.
“I think there’s been a great amount of patient harassment, which is what I consider to have happened to Mr. Marquez,” said Brian Vicente, a lawyer who represented Anthony Marquez in a marijuana case.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said he takes offense from that because his office was just doing its job. He also cited problems in receiving verification that suspects can possess marijuana for medical purposes.
The recent saga began when Marquez, 29, was cited for petty possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia in March after a sheriff’s deputy stopped his car in Mount Falcon Park. According to Storey, the deputy reported that he smelled burnt marijuana and eventually found the marijuana and the pipe, which Marquez allegedly hid from the deputy.
Marquez was set for arraignment May 17, his first court appearance. Storey said the deputy district attorney usually has only the court file and the summons at that point, and in this case they wanted more information and verification of Marquez’s status as a licensed medical marijuana caregiver.
Marquez said he thought he would just go to court and show the documentation, and then the case would be dismissed. Over the course of the summer, Marquez reported to court once again without an attorney, and told prosecutors he would get one, and that he would not plead guilty to any crime. A motions hearing was set for Sept. 25, but Vicente filed a motion to dismiss Aug. 10, and the case was dismissed Sept. 25.
Storey said the state health department on Sept. 25 verified Marquez’s status as a medical marijuana caretaker, so the case was dismissed.
Marquez and Vicente say it took too long to dismiss the case, but Storey said it took that long to get the information verified, adding that Marquez is “lucky” because, based on Marquez’s prior criminal history and the circumstances of this case, Storey might have chosen to prosecute.
He said Marquez had a prior felony drug conviction for possession of mushrooms, a conviction that follow his being pulled over by the Colorado State Patrol for speeding. In that case, Storey said, marijuana and paraphernalia were found, but documentation was found for Marquez’s caretaker status and he was prosecuted only for the mushrooms. But the state trooper smelled burnt marijuana in that case, just like in the recent case in March.
Vicente denied Marquez had a prior criminal record. Marquez acknowledged it but didn’t discuss it.
“This guy is a caretaker, not a patient,” Storey said. “The patient wasn’t in the car. He has what the deputy described as a burnt marijuana smell, and this guy is (hiding) the pipe, and he’s (hiding) the marijuana, which is not consistent with somebody who should be having that marijuana at that time ee frankly, I would have prosecuted him.”
He said that Ashley Augustin, the deputy district attorney who handled the case, never consulted him but that she did the right thing.
“So we dismissed this case, gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was not ingesting the marijuana,” Storey said.
Vicente said that even after Marquez showed Augustin he had proper documentation, she wanted him to plead to something — a claim backed up by Marquez — and that wasn’t going to happen.
“They were just trying to bully him into taking a plea offer,” Vicente said. “They were essentially using their position and their power to try and get him to agree to plead to something. They work under the assumption that people do not understand the law, and they do, and their prosecutors have a great amount of power, and here they’re misusing that and trying to get him to plead guilty to something, even though he really committed no crime.”
Storey said the case was handled in as timely a manner as possible and was dismissed as soon as verification was received from the state.
“I think he was treated — based on what the result was and what the facts of this case were — I think he was treated well,” Storey said.
He added that it’s not easy to get verification from the state health department, and the way the constitutional amendment granting rights to medical marijuana users is written creates problems for prosecutors.
“It really creates difficulties for prosecutors when we have a constitutional amendment that doesn’t take into consideration some of the things that we have to do to either prove or disprove something,” Storey said. He said the problems getting verification from the health Ddepartment make it difficult to verify licenses, and there’s no easy fix since it’s a constitutional amendment, and not a statute that can be adjusted with legislation.
Contact AJ Vicens at: email@example.com.