Friday, September 24, 2010

The Federal Railroad

It seems that Amtrak isn't the only federal railroad Americans have to worry about.

A Colorado man faces a possible life sentence for engaging in an activity he believed was legal under state law -- growing medicinal marijuana in his Denver-area home -- yet a federal judge ruled yesterday, at the urging of federal prosecutors, that Christopher Bartkowicz is barred from using that as a legal defense. That means that anyone in Colorado who the feds want to charge with drug violations they can charge with drug violations, and that the rules of the game will be rigged in the prosecution's favor. Jurors won't get to hear a compelling and plausible explanation for why Coloradans are using or cultivating medical marijuana -- because it's permitted by our state Constitution. Bartkowicz may go to prison, possibly for life, without having an opportunity to explain and defend his actions, in a proceeding that seems more like kangaroo court, or a Stalinist show trial, than something one associates with the American justice system.

This has become more than just a case about medical marijuana. It's now about whether "equal protection under the law" means anything when state law comes into conflict with federal law -- and whether arrogant federal prosecutors and judges can rig the outcome in their favor.

Read more about the Bartkowicz case in yesterday's column by the Denver Post's Vince Carroll, who is no fan of medical marijuana yet nonetheless understands the injustice being done.

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