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Advocates tout 'victory' for patients and caregivers

By Vanessa Miller
The Daily Camera

BOULDER, Colo. - Outside the University of Colorado Police Department on Monday, cheers erupted from a crowd of marijuana advocates - some of whom were dressed as giant pot leaves - when a student was given back medical marijuana that police took from him in May.
"I wish I had a chance to talk to the officers who said I'd never get this back," said CU sophomore Edward Nicholson, 20, who's a medical-marijuana cardholder in Colorado.
CU police confiscated about 2 ounces of marijuana from Nicholson in his residence hall last spring, even though the then-freshman has a card legally certifying him to hold and administer the drug to his brother. Nicholson said his brother suffers from chronic, debilitating pain from football injuries and has been prescribed marijuana to help deal with the discomfort.
Nicholson faced criminal charges for drug possession and was suspended from CU over the summer. But, after he hired an attorney and threatened to sue CU, the school has dropped its case against him and changed its rules.
CU hasn't changed its policy against campus drug possession, but students living on campus who hold medical-marijuana cards can now request to move off campus to avoid school punishment if they are found with the drug. Someone with a card who is living on campus still will be held to the no-drugs policy at CU.
Nicholson was certified to be a caregiver for his brother more than a year ago because, he said, it's easier and cheaper to get marijuana in Boulder than in Aurora, where his family lives.
After police confiscated Nicholson's marijuana, CU ordered him to serve 24 hours of community service and submit to drug and alcohol testing in addition to his suspension. He also was told to write a "reflection" paper about the harmful effects of marijuana on his schooling.
Three days before the fall semester began in August, Nicholson learned that CU had dropped his case and he would be allowed to remain a student. He also learned that officers would give him back the marijuana they confiscated.
When Nicholson left CU's police department Monday with a large, half-full bag of marijuana, a small crowd cheered. One man, who had a large silver marijuana leaf around his neck, raised his arms in victory.
"I'm hoping he'll whip it out and let us all smoke a joint," said Kyle Marsh, who's making a documentary on medical marijuana.
Nicholson's attorney, Robert Corry, said he's glad to have helped educate a law enforcement agency on Colorado's marijuana law, which passed in 2000.
"Today, CU police had to go back to school," Corry said.
CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said Nicholson's case "underscores the difficulties that institutions face in confronting a new law and reconciling that new law with our needs on campus to be drug-free."
From the enforcement side, CU police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said his officers did nothing wrong.
"We're just doing our best job to enforce the law and follow the provisions of the law, as confusing as they might be," Wiesley said.
About 1,955 people have medical-marijuana cards in Colorado, according to state health department statistics from last year.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers didn't comment Monday on CU's decision to clear Nicholson and give him back the marijuana officers took. But, attorney general spokesman Nate Strauch said, Suthers believes the law is "vaguely written" and has "led to problems for law enforcement."

Wire Service
 
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