DENVER – The man who’d been making cannabis oil for Jack Splitt, whose use of the oil to treat his debilitating medical conditions led to the creation of a state law in 2015 to allow the use of certain medical marijuana products in Colorado schools, now faces felony charges for alleged drug manufacturing.
Mark Pedersen, 60, had been providing oil to Jack before his sudden death on Aug. 25, 2016. The boy, who was 15 when he died, had severe cerebral palsy and dystonia.
Jack became the face of the effort to allow medical marijuana products in schools for students, when Rep. Jonathan Singer pushed an effort through the state Legislature in 2015 to allow medical marijuana-eligible students to use oils, patches and tinctures at school.
Jack had been denied the use of oils at his Jefferson County school.
Pedersen was providing the oil to Jack and others, and was living in the basement of the family’s home when Jack died. He'd also pushed several medical marijuana measures across the country, including one in Missouri, and had touted marijuana's medical uses in stories published across the internet.
His attorney, Matthew Buck, told Denver7 that Pedersen was “not registered with the state as anyone’s caregiver,” but said he did have a valid medical marijuana card.
As of August, there were 1,063 caregivers in Colorado who are allowed to grow specified amounts of marijuana for their patients. Around 90 percent of caregivers have two or fewer patients, according to the state, and about half of caregivers are only allowed to grow less than six plants for each patient.
When Jack died, a detective with the West Metro Drug Task Force was called in for further investigation, and wrote the affidavit that contains the details of Pedersen’s arrest.
The detective said he learned that Pedersen and another man, Ronald Niehouse, were renting rooms in the basement of the home. Per the search warrant, detectives had been advised to search the home for “evidence of cannabis or derivatives.”
When officers went to the basement, according to the affidavit, they found several jars and bags of marijuana, suspected cannabis oil, and other items allegedly related to the manufacturing of marijuana oil.
In total, the detective wrote, 5.7 pounds of marijuana plant material and 25.8 pounds of marijuana concentrate were confiscated.
Pedersen’s lawyer said that some of the “concentrate” hadn’t been processed, and would actually weigh “about 1/15” of that when the processing was complete.
The detective also wrote in Pedersen’s affidavit that officers had found various notebooks that allegedly outlined who Pedersen’s “patients” were, how he was treating them, and where they were located.
Several of the “patients” were minors, the detective wrote. One of the patients had stage 4 colon cancer, and Pedersen had allegedly written in one of the notebooks that the person was to “fly in” to Denver and receive the marijuana product at a Denver-area restaurant.
The affidavit says that detectives also discovered several Facebook posts made by Pedersen in which he talked about marijuana being a nontoxic food and touting its medical uses.
“Countless healing testify to the fact that cannabis is the single most important medicine of the 21st century,” one of the posts said.
When a second search warrant was served about two weeks after Jack’s death, detectives also confiscated $7,000 found in a safe belonging to Pedersen. He tells Denver7 that was part of a disability settlement completely unrelated to cannabis, but his attorney said the case involving the confiscated funds has been stayed pending the outcome of the marijuana charges.
Buck, who is Pedersen’s attorney, told Denver7 the charges are “unfounded” and that the case wouldn’t exist had it not been for Jack’s death, which Buck alleges—citing the coroner’s report—was caused by nurses giving the teen too much Phenobarbital, which is a medication most-often used to treat epilepsy.
Buck said that Pedersen is no longer living at Jack’s mother’s home after bonding out of jail.
Pedersen faces five felony charges related to the alleged manufacturing of or possession of marijuana concentrate or marijuana.
“We feel strongly he’s overcharged because they’re charging him with possessing a significant more amount of concentrate than he had,” Buck said.
Pedersen discussed the case further with Denver7 Wednesday afternoon, and has a GoFundMe page, where he's asking for money to cover expenses.
Attempts to reach Jack’s mother for comment were not returned until after the story was published. She disputed some claims made in the affidavit and statements made by Pedersen's attorney. Pedersen is next scheduled to be in court Oct. 2 for a preliminary hearing.