Denver-area pot grower agrees to 5-year term

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A suburban Denver pot grower who tried to set up a federal-state showdown on medical marijuana agreed to a five-year prison term and was handcuffed in court and led away after pleading guilty.

Thirty-seven-year-old Christopher Bartkowicz (BART'-kuh-wits) pleaded guilty Thursday to three drug charges stemming from his basement pot-growing business. Bartkowicz agreed to a five-year sentence with no possibility of parole after he tried and failed to use Colorado's medical marijuana law in his defense.

Federal drug agents seized hundreds of marijuana plants from Bartkowicz's Highlands Ranch home in February after he showed off his growing business to a TV news station.

Bartkowicz will be jailed until he is formally sentenced in January.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado pot grower who tried unsuccessfully to use state medical marijuana law in his defense on federal drug charges has said he now plans to plead guilty.

Christopher Bartkowicz, of Highlands Ranch, was scheduled to change his plea on Thursday. Court spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Bartkowicz told the court he planned to plead guilty, though the plea change won't be final until the hearing.

Bartkowicz faces federal marijuana cultivation charges after he showed off his marijuana growing business to a TV reporter in February. Soon after Denver's KUSA-TV promoted the story in February, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided Bartkowicz's home and seized more than 200 plants.

Bartkowicz has changed his plea before. He first changed his plea to not guilty in April and asked the judge to let him use Colorado's 2000 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana rules in his defense.

"I felt I was following state law," Bartkowicz told U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer last month.

Prosecutors asked the federal court to block Bartkowicz from using Colorado's medical marijuana law in his defense. The judge agreed, rejecting Bartkowicz's attempt to set up a federal-state showdown on medical marijuana rules.

Brimmer chided Bartkowicz for believing that recent memos by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and another Justice official gave him permission to grow large amounts of pot in his basement without fearing federal prosecution.

"Anyone reading (the memos) would quite clearly understand that cultivating marijuana is a violation of federal law," Brimmer said.

Bartkowicz faces a possible life sentence for cultivating marijuana.

Another Colorado pot grower was sentenced Wednesday on federal drug charges. Rodney L. Jobe pleaded guilty to cultivation charges for growing 374 marijuana plants inside a commercial building in Colorado Springs.