Yesterday, we published an extended interview with DEA special agent Jeffrey Sweetin, a lightning rod for controversy about medical marijuana. Predictably, some of his assertions about the DEA's actions troubled Jessica Corry, an attorney and medical marijuana advocate.
But along with her criticisms, Corry, the wife of fellow attorney/advocate Rob Corry, also saw some positives in Sweetin's rhetoric, which was far less strident than in some previous interviews.
"Sweetin's had a radical change in tone, and he seems to have an emerging interest in having a dialogue -- and we invite that," Corry says. "Rob's going to try to invite him to lunch."
If Sweetin accepts the invite, the conversation should be interesting, especially in light of two mentions of Rob Corry in the latest interview. The first is a more general statement; the second specifically focuses on negative remarks Rob offered after the DEA busted Highlands Ranch's Chris Bartkowicz, who'd shown off his home grow to Channel 9. Here are the excerpts:
"I think Rob Corry and the other marijuana lawyers would tell [dispensary owners], 'You are in violation of federal law. The problem is, nobody can tell you what is going to happen six months from now. The way the law is written, they are in violation of federal law. What that looks like down the road, I have no idea. I think you are in a risky business, from a legal standpoint. I don't know how anybody can suggest you are safe to operate a dispensary...'
"I don't know Rob Corry. I know he filed a complaint against me. Rob Corry has the absolute right to complain about what I did. I would tell you the complaint is ridiculous."
Such criticism shouldn't be an impediment to communication, Jessica Corry believes.
"One of the frustrations we've had is that we've met with people at every level, from members of Congress to city councilmen to county attorneys, and we've had a respectful dialogue -- but Agent Sweetin has previously shown no interest in being a part of that. Rob had a debate with him scheduled on Colorado Public Radio and he canceled it. So if he would be willing to talk now, that's great. Let's have that conversation in a respectful way. We're all capable of doing that. It's in the best interest of everybody in Colorado."
In another portion of the Westword interview, Sweetin notes that Senator Chris Romer, Representative Tom Massey and others who sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the DEA rein in its medical marijuana-related activities while the Colorado legislature debates a regulatory bill never contacted him.
To that, Corry says, "Why isn't he calling the people making complaints? Why isn't he calling Jared Polis? Why isn't he calling the bipartisan coalition who sent the letter? He's the one who created this frenzy and this climate."
Moreover, Corry feels Sweetin is using flawed logic to justify actions like those taken against Bartkowicz. While an October memo from the Department of Justice advised agents to lay off medical marijuana enterprises that are in compliance with state laws, he says Bartkowicz clearly had more plants than were allowed by his number of patients. Her response?
"I would hope that Agent Sweetin would be able to step back and ask whether it's appropriate for the federal government to come in and resolve what is most definitely a zoning violation.
"The state legislature has passed nothing as of yet that dictates specific zoning requirements, and no limitations have been imposed on caregivers in terms of the number of patients they can provide care for. If Agent Sweetin would like to read Amendment 20, it says patients are instructed to have six plants or whatever is medically necessary. Other than that, the only guidance Agent Sweetin would have about any sort of illegality is local zoning laws. So, in fact, that is the only possible violation that we would have here.
"Mr. Bartkowicz is certainly not the poster child for medical marijuana. But that being said, this seven-decade prohibition experiment has cost us billions of dollars. And we need to be asking ourselves if we want to keep spending even more money for something like this."
Elsewhere, Corry continues, "Agent Sweetin expresses concern about the safety of his children and his family. And if that's the case, he perhaps ought to go knocking on doors of suburban homes across Colorado and express concern for other children. Because we know one thing for sure: Prescription drugs are the number one accidental killer in the state. So if he's really concerned about the safety of children, he should be a lot more concerned about Vicodin and Oxycontin, not medical marijuana, which has never been linked to a single death in this country."
Be that as it may, marijuana is still clearly on the DEA's radar, and Corry is concerned about what methods the organization is using to determine whether those ostensibly selling it legally are actually doing so. According to her, Craigslist ads have popped up of late regarding properties that could be used for medical marijuana businesses, and the individuals behind them have been asking entrepreneurs to provide a great deal of personal, privileged information -- so much so that she wonders if they're actually a front for a DEA sting operation. "We want to talk with Agent Sweetin about that," she says.
In addition, she'd like to clear the air over some other comments Agent Sweetin has made over time.
"I don't know Agent Sweetin personally, but what I do know of him is that he likes to go into the media and compare medical marijuana caregivers to terrorists and to international drug cartels," she says. "And given that I represent a couple of dozen honest medical marijuana caregivers at this point, that's extremely offensive to me and my clients.
"And Agent Sweetin takes a swipe at my husband and other medical marijuana attorneys, suggesting that we have anything other than the intention to make sure our clients are in full compliance with the law. We sit down with them for hours and explain the current status of the relationship between federal, state and local laws."
Still, both Corrys are willing to set aside any frustration over these portrayals if Sweetin would be willing to chat.
"I know we've been hard on him," Jessica acknowledges, "but we are very interested in dialogue. Rob and I have sat down with a full spectrum of interests, and they've been productive conversations. We welcomed the opportunity to speak with them, and we'd welcome the chance to talk with Agent Sweetin, too."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.