Rep. Jared Polis has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to look into whether the Drug Enforcement Administration acted inappropriately and in defiance of federal government policy by raiding and arresting a small medical marijuana grower in Colorado.
Polis, a freshman Democrat who represents the state, told HuffPost that he also met with Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and pressed him on the issue.
"I was very impressed with him," said Polis. Now he's working on Holder.
In February, Holder said that the Justice Department would not arrest or prosecute people for drug law violations if they are following state medical marijuana laws. The department issued a memo to that effect in October.
The DEA raid and subsequent comments from top special agent Jeffrey Sweetin that the drug warriors would "arrest everybody" created a climate of "widespread panic" in Colorado, Polis wrote to Holder in a letter this week. He asked the AG to clarify in writing whether the department's policy was still in effect.
The man captured in the raid has been charged by the U.S. Attorney for intent to distribute drugs.
"It seems like there is a disconnect between the field and the White House policy," Polis told HuffPost. "You have rogue agents like the one in Colorado, like Jeff Sweetin, that are going around, that are making statements that are scaring people, and that are disrupting a doctor-patient relationship that is sanctioned by the people of Colorado."
Medical marijuana is legal as part of Colorado's constitution.
"I think clearly the Attorney General and Washington need to have more clear guidelines and they need to enforce those guidelines nationally so that no other agents step out of line and scare people who are following state laws," said Polis.
The DEA was alerted to the defendant's pot-growing operation because he gave an interview to a local TV station. "Sometimes there's a subculture within law enforcement that seeks enforcement for the sake of enforcement. And serious law enforcement professionals need to put a stop to that," said Polis.
"The voters overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana law, and regardless of what Coloradoans feel about medical marijuana, they overwhelmingly agree that the federal government should not intervene with what we believe to be a state and local decision," he said.
Polis compared the situation to alcohol enforcement -- even if the grower broke state law, as the DEA insists, that is an issue that should be left to the state. "Until recently, Colorado had blue laws so we weren't allowed to have liquor stores open on Sunday," said Polis. "I didn't see any federal agents raid liquor stores on Sunday. That was a state issue and so is this."
Ryan Grim is the author of This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America