Interview: Federally Charged Medical Pot Grower Chris Bartkowicz


Photo: AP
Chris Bartkowicz faces up to life in prison on federal charges for growing medical marijuana.

​A Colorado medical marijuana grower facing federal drug charges after he bragged about his cannabis business to a TV station may not be allowed to use the state’s medical marijuana law in his defense.

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer on Thursday morning was asked by federal prosecutors to block the medical marijuana defense in their case against Chris Bartkowicz of Denver, reports The Associated Press.
“The provisions of state law cited in the Government’s brief demonstrate the quagmire of Colorado state law and its medical marijuana provisions, and further demonstrates that none of those provisions have relevance to the federal prosecution of the Defendant,” said a motion filed Tuesday by prosecutors, reports Felisa Cardona at The Denver Post.
Prosecutors contended that Bartkowicz should not be allowed to use Colorado’s medical marijuana laws as a defense, or try to argue that he was singled out or didn’t know he would be subject to prosecution.

Photo: 9News
Chris Bartkowicz’s TV appearance led to the loss of his freedom and all his plants.

​Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided Bartkowicz’s suburban home in February after he did an interview with local TV station 9News about his marijuana growing operation. He was indicted in May with a federal charge of cultivating marijuana.
Bartkowicz said he was following Colorado’s medical marijuana rules.
He faces up to life in prison because he has prior felony convictions.
“So because I have a past I shouldn’t be allowed to medicate?” Bartkowicz said to Toke of the Town Thursday morning. “With all the dispensaries operating and the legislators telling us we have the legal right to do this — why am I the only one on the stand?”

Photo: Anna Hewson/KUSA
Chris Bartkowicz: “Hundreds of others are doing bigger grows than I am”

​”Hundreds of others are doing bigger grows than I am,” Bartkowicz told us. “Plus we, the voters, gave ourselves the right and the 10th Amendment is still in place. So how can this go forward without he jury hearing why I did this?”
“Feds can smear you and a person is left trying to defend themselves with the lies first to be undone,” Bartkowicz told Toke of the Town.
“I agree I made a mistake doing the interview,” Bartkowicz told us. “But hindsight is 20/20.”
“The bigger issue,” Bartkowicz said, “is do the taxpayers want to spend millions of dollars locking up a person who was helping sick people and not hurting anyone.”
Bartkowicz’s defense attorney Joseph Saint-Veltri would not comment on the government’s motion until he had a chance to read it.
Saint-Veltri has filed his own motion to dismiss the case, arguing that his client didn’t know he was breaking the law because the Justice Department instructed federal prosecutors to use their resources to go after drug traffickers and not medical marijuana users who are complying with state law.
The October 2009 Justice Department memo which instructed federal prosecutors to back off on medical marijuana cases is commonly referred to as the “Holder Memorandum” after Attorney General Eric Holder, who issued the statement.
“The defendant was acting pursuant to Amendment 20 to the Colorado Constitution and the so-called Holder Memorandum,” the motion to dismiss says. “The defendant’s good faith belief that he was complying with the law, as it was understood by him, should have been submitted to the Grand Jury, especially because, upon best information and belief, this is the first federal prosecution involving Amendment 20.”
Saint-Veltri said the amount of prison time Bartkowicz is facing is “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“A sentence of 10 years or 20 years or 60 years or, as the government propounds, life imprisonment is not only unconscionable but grotesque,” Saint-Veltri wrote.
Federal prosecutors claim he had more plants — 224 — than the state permits, but added that state laws on marijuana don’t matter anyway in federal court.
“The statement that I was over my plant limit is a lie,” Bartkowicz told Toke of the Town. “More media spin by the feds to try and discredit me.”
“Two hundred and twenty-four is not right because 105 were clones trying to establish a root system,” Bartkowicz told us. “I had that many so that any that didn’t make it would not affect the numbers I needed for my next round of veg. So only 119 were root bound, according to their numbers. Seventy of them were less than a foot tall. Only 40 were in bloom, which is right on track with me and my patients’ needs.”
“Any excess clones, once rooted, were gonna go to one of the dispensaries that I worked with,” Bartkowicz said.
Marijuana activists say that medical cannabis growers are being targeted by the DEA despite state laws.