Police return stash to Colorado man acquitted of felony marijuana charges
Josh Jones was acquitted last week of felony charges stemming from his role as a medical marijuana caregiver. As a result, the Adams County sheriff’s office returned marijuana confiscated from Jones during the raid at his house that took place more than a year ago.
A Jefferson County District Court jury found Jones “not guilty” in the felony criminal trial of People v. Josh Jones (Jefferson District Case No. 11CR322).
Jones was charged with “Felony Cultivation of Marijuana” and “Felony Possession of Marijuana” stemming from his indoor medical marijuana garden in Westminster. In January 2011, 16 SWAT officers and eight detectives from the North Metro Drug Task Force broke into Jones’ home, counted an alleged 140 marijuana plants and confiscated approximately 2.5 pounds of cut and dried medical grade pot.
An earlier court showdown on the case ended in a mistrial in February due to problems with evidence. Jones’ attorney Robert Corry estimated that the cost to Colorado taxpayers of bringing this prosecution exceeded $100,000.
“I had the sense that the jurors believed it was a waste of time for the District Attorney to bring this case,” said Corry, “I cannot say I disagree.”
Corry said Jones had a small operation, serving primarily friends and family. He said it was his understanding that the North Metro Drug Task force received an anonymous tip.
“They showed up with 16 SWAT officers. Once they commit that level of resources, they really don’t want to come up empty,” Corry said.
Corry said it “boggles my mind” that in a world where schools can’t afford textbooks and government is being cut to the bone, that law enforcement in Colorado can devote such resources to arresting and prosecuting a licensed caregiver.
He said he is hopeful that if Colorado passes an initiative to legalize small amounts of marijuana this November, that law enforcement will get the message.
“I think it will help,” he said. “It is not perfect but it is a step in the right direction.”
Upon acquittal, Jones promptly had a copy of Corry’s law firm logo tattooed on his bicep.
“I’m honored,” said Corry. “I’m humbled. He had joked about doing that if we won, but I thought that’s all it was– a joke. I’m truly humbled,” said the well-known marijuana rights attorney.
Pam Russell, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, said Jones was prosecuted because there was probable cause he committed a crime.
“That is what we do. If someone is in possession of marijuana in the amounts these charge indicate, then we prosecute them.”
Russell said she was not sure how Jones’ being a medical marijuana caregiver played into the decision to file charges.
Corry said Jones is a licensed caregiver and that the police knew his status as a caregiver when they raided his home.
“His being a caregiver is the whole deal. If you are in possession of Oxycontin and you have a prescription, they don’t arrest you. If you are in possession of Oxycontin and you don’t have a prescription, they arrest you– well maybe they arrest you,” Corry said.
Corry also noted that if it weren’t for his status as a legal caregiver, Jones would not have gotten his marijuana back on acquittal.
Jim Gerhardt, a sergeant with the North Metro Drug Task Force and the group’s spokesperson, said that just because someone is a licensed caregiver does not mean they aren’t breaking the law.
“If we have indication of criminal behavior, then that leads to an investigation and a lot of the time to an arrest. That was the case in this instance,” Gerhardt said. “[Jones] had more plants than the law allows, and that makes it a criminal act and at that point his status as a caregiver doesn’t matter.”
Gerhardt said Colorado’s medical marijuana laws and rules are very complex.
“It is very difficult for a jury to walk in cold and understand the law and the rules involved. If a jury is not convinced, then they vote not guilty, and that is what happened here,” he said.
“This case reiterates the principle that a Medical Marijuana caregiver can cultivate or possess as much marijuana as is medically necessary for his patients,” said Corry. The verdict should lay to rest the frequently repeated legal fiction that a caregiver or patient is strictly limited to six plants and two ounces of medicine.”
Both Gerhardt and Russell said they had no idea what the case cost to prosecute.
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