Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marijuana: Chris Bartkowicz is back

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 12:57 PM

click to enlarge A recent picture. - COURTESY CHRIS BARTKOWICZ
  • Courtesy Chris Bartkowicz
  • A recent picture.
It's been two years, six months and 17 days since we last reported on the fate of Highlands Ranch marijuana grower Chris Bartkowicz, who let 9NEWS tour his grow and was subsequently arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency. His case routinely led the news, as he was the federal government's biggest target since the growth of medical marijuana in Colorado.

The grower was eventually sentenced to five years in Leavenworth, Kan., but Bartkowicz is back out.

"FREE from Federal Prison," he wrote on Facebook today. "Now the next leg of my journey begins. Love you all and THANK YOU for those that took the time to write me while the Fed's had me locked up."

Bartkowicz tells the Indy that he received a year off for participating in a drug program, and another eight months for good behavior. He's now in a halfway house in Denver, with eight years of probation to live off.

Looking back, he writes: "Well it was stupid ... but I got insight and an experience that people can not pay for. I have new goals and will be better and stronger from all this."

His continues to be an especially interesting case considering that Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday that he'd like to reduce prison time for certain small-scale, nonviolent drug offenders

"It’s clear — as we come together today — that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason," Holder said. "It’s clear, at a basic level, that 20th-century criminal justice solutions are not adequate to overcome our 21st-century challenges."

And though the passage of Amendment 64 would not have helped his case with the feds, the man says he's kept an eye on how things have progressed in Colorado: "I have kept up and am so glad we are winning the war!!!"

We originally tried to contact him yesterday, and received a response from someone identifying themselves as Christine Steele, a friend who says she's a reporter in Silver City, N.M.

"I'm going to advise Chris not to talk to the press or give any interviews at this time  — or perhaps ever again," Steele wrote to me. "Giving an interview with Nine news is what got him locked up in the first place. (I wish he would have consulted me before agreeing to give that interview. I would have advised him not to.)"

She continued:

Chris has been through enough in becoming the poster child for ridiculous and unjust sentences. I cover crime here among other things and write too many stories about violent criminals getting off with lighter sentences than Chris got for a non violent crime — but that's the feds for you. I wrote a story about a 20-year-old who shot a 19-year-old in the back on a downtown street who got three years — less than Chris got. A guy recently got a conditional discharge and probation after stabbing someone nine times. It is beyond unjust. As long as I have known Chris (since 2005), he has always been a non-violent person. He is one of the most positive people I know — even throughout his prison sentence — he holds no grudges against the so-called close friends who never stayed in touch throughout his time inside. He is truly a very good-hearted person who got a very raw deal (he took the five-year plea deal to avoid a trial and possibly a much longer sentence.). The public was no safer with Chris locked up for three years while violent felons go free on probation or with lighter sentences.

Chris is on lock down in halfway house for the time being and he will be on parole for the next eight years so he needs to be on the straight and narrow and not be involved in the marijuana community in any way. Any little slip up can get him sent back. Calling attention to himself by doing an interview would likely not be in his best interest.

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