Craig Tim Martin, a 24-year-old Craig man, said he has battled a "well-documented" history of severe pain caused by migraine headaches and stomach ailments for almost 10 years.
Medical marijuana, which seven months ago he cultivated in his Craig apartment for himself and others, helps alleviate that pain.
"That is the only reason I use marijuana - for pain," he said.
"This medical marijuana is a right for me. It's something that treats my illness, and it helps."
Backed by a court order, Martin was able to complete an unusual transaction Thursday that entailed him retrieving marijuana and items used to grow it from Moffat County authorities.
The All Crimes Enforcement Team arrested Martin in October 2007, seizing marijuana and other cultivation items from his apartment. He was charged with felony counts of cultivation, possession with intent to distribute and distribution, among other charges.
The catch: Martin was registered as a patient and caregiver at the time with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Medical Marijuana Registry program, which allowed him to legally possess and use designated amounts of marijuana and plants and provide marijuana to other registered patients.
Under a plea agreement, five charges against Martin were dismissed. He pleaded guilty to one count - possession of 8 ounces or more of marijuana, a Class 5 felony.
On Wednesday, Moffat County District Court Judge Shelley Hill sentenced Martin to three years probation, 15 days in jail, 24 hours community service and to pay about $3,523 in costs and fees. He has no prior criminal history in Moffat County, according to court records.
The judge also complied with a request from Martin's attorney, Robert Corry, of Denver, and ordered the return of his client's marijuana and other property. The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office objected to the drug being returned.
Martin was able to retrieve about 35 items seized from him, including two ounces of marijuana, a portable air conditioning unit, two 1,000-watt grow lamps, horticulture books, smoking pipes and a vaporizer. A handgun that was seized will not be returned to him because of his felony conviction.
Corry said law required the judge to order marijuana that Martin is legally permitted to possess be given back to him. The District Attorney's Office had no comment.
Martin, a former media director for the local group, Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse, said his problems with the law stemmed from providing marijuana to a person who wasn't listed on the state's registry. Admittedly, doing so was a "large mistake," he said.
"I became too trusting of a person and was told that person was in the process of being in the program," he said.
"That was a mistake on my part. I take responsibility for that mistake. : Ultimately, I broke the rules. You have to follow the rules. That's the bottom line."
He was scheduled to report to jail Thursday afternoon to begin serving his sentence.
Martin said he provided marijuana to three other people who were registered with the state. Those patients suffered either from cancer or AIDS, he said.
"It helps them with their nausea and pain with relatively no side effects," Martin said.
Prescribed pills for his medical condition caused harsh side effects, Martin said, and prompted him to use marijuana to ease the pain.
"This helps me and I have no side effects," he said.
Amendment 20, passed in the November 2000 general election, tasked Public Health and Environment with implementing the Medical Marijuana Registry program. According to the department, 54 counties have registered applicants; Moffat County is listed as having less than three patients and Routt County is listed as having four patients.
Martin said he continues to use medical marijuana, but no longer grows it. He now obtains it through a caregiver, like he once was.
"Part of taking that responsibility was I (voluntarily) gave up my caregiver-ship," he said.
Martin said he is an advocate for drug reform, specifically for more treatment in lieu of prison sentences for users. He also has worked as an unpaid volunteer for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation Colorado, a group that has campaigned for legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
However, he said his case was not about the pros and cons of legalizing drugs, rather the court upholding rights given to him by an authorizing doctor and the state's voters.
"This is a health issue," he said. "This is a right given to me by a medical doctor. : It falls in line with the will of the people of Colorado. (The judge) made a fair decision, the right decision."