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CO: Marijuana Advocates Cheer DEA Agent’s Exit From State

July 19, 2010

Denver Post / July 2010 / Felisa Cardona


DEA special agent in charge Jeffrey D. Sweetin, who became the face of some of Colorado’s medical-marijuana fights, has been promoted to run the agency’s training center in Virginia. ( Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post )

Marijuana-legalization advocates cheered the upcoming departure of federal agent Jeffrey D. Sweetin because, they said, they believe his views are not in line with the will of Colorado voters who legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.

The outspoken special agent in charge of Denver’s Drug Enforcement Administration understands that he became the “face” of anti-legalization in Colorado, but says his exit doesn’t mean the fight over marijuana is over.
“The person who takes my place is going to have the same mission I have,” Sweetin said.

DEA agents are sworn to uphold the constitution, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law, he said.

A widely publicized clash

Sweetin was promoted to run the DEA training center in Quantico, Va., and will provide international support in places such as Afghanistan. The new assignment begins in September.

Sweetin was widely panned by medical-marijuana proponents during his eight-year tenure. The criticism heightened after Chris Bartkowicz, a Highlands Ranch resident who was growing medicinal-marijuana plants in his basement, was arrested after showing his operation in a television interview.

The DEA maintains that Bartkowicz was arrested because he was selling more plants than he had patients and his grow operation was within 1,000 feet of an elementary school.

Sweetin points out that the DEA is not raiding dispensaries that have boomed throughout the state. He believes marijuana proponents used the arrest as a way to build hysteria.

“It’s a difficult societal issue that can’t be broken down into soundbites,” Sweetin said. “It’s going to continue to be a challenge for Colorado.”

Mason Tvert, campaign director of SAFER, a marijuana advocacy group, says he is glad Sweetin is leaving, but agrees that his moving on won’t change the DEA’s mission.

“One disingenuous anti-marijuana zealot is just the same as another, and I would expect that his replacement would be just as adamant about going after marijuana regardless if the substance is safer than alcohol,” Tvert said.

As Sweetin became more outspoken about marijuana in Colorado, the personal attacks increased.

“Medical-marijuana proponents threatened my life and the lives of my family,” he said. “We are not thin-skinned. It’s OK to disagree with us, but I don’t agree with personal attacks. That’s cowardice. But people who legitimately stood up, I think that is fine.”

Extraditions a high point

As he leaves Colorado — at least temporarily — Sweetin’s sweetest memories are of the cases his agents broke while he was in charge, particularly the 2003 extradition of Mexican drug lords who were trafficking cocaine to a ranch in Peyton.

“The pundits said, ‘You will never get your hands on these guys,’ and we did,” Sweetin said.

Last year’s extradition of Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero from Mexico to Colorado was personal for the DEA, Sweetin said, because of the man’s brother’s involvement in the killing of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985.

“All the dopers in Mexico know they will be caught by DEA at some point,” Sweetin said. “Our system of justice is daunting to them. We can’t send a message to them that we are giving up.”

See original posting here:http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_15541933?source=rss

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One Comment leave one →
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