Levaing the Court Room with 5 Pounds of Pot
First Medical Marijuana Aquittal in Sonoma County
Over 20 years Experience with Defending Criminal Charges in Sonoma and Surrounding Counties
With over 20 years of experience, The Law Office of Steve Spiegelman has defended an array of Criminal Charges and has gotten maximum results for his clients.
In a verdict that changed the way prosecutors handle medical marijuana cases, a Santa Rosa man was acquitted Monday of charges that he had more pot than necessary for his medical needs.
Both sides agreed that the acquittal of Alan MacFarlane of felony cultivation could help establish standards for how many plants medical marijuana patients can grow.
"It will help us actually," Sonoma County District Attorney Mike Mullins said. "Where the line will be drawn, I can't say."
Defense attorney Sandy Feinland called the verdict "a huge victory for the compassionate use of marijuana in this county. It sent a message to law enforcement to leave decisions regarding health care to a doctor and his patient."
MacFarlane, 47, was the first medical marijuana patient to undergo a jury trial in Sonoma County, and jurors rejected the prosecution's contention that he was growing much more than he needed for himself.
MacFarlane, on trial for two weeks, had 73 plants seized by a county drug task force in May 1999. Thirty-six plants were confiscated three months later. Jurors heard widely divergent estimates of what the plants would yield for MacFarlane, who had approval from his doctor to smoke marijuana to deal with chronic pain related to the removal of his cancerous thyroid 25 years ago.
The disabled Vietnam-era veteran said he uses about 21/2 ounces a week of marijuana, by smoking and eating it.
Although some counties have guidelines as to the number of plants medical marijuana patients can grow, most, like Sonoma County, do not.
Jury foreman Chad Gillease said the jury decided the amount MacFarlane's plants would produce was somewhere between the amount estimated by different cultivation experts for the defense and prosecution.
"It's a very gray area. Everyone struggled," he said. "We all wished that people who work with medical marijuana, the district attorney and Sheriff's Department would work together in the future to come to a common understanding of yields and the appropriate medical use so individuals don't have to go through this."
Medical Marijuana Return Hailed, Court Order Over 5 Pounds Of Pot Seen As New Sign Of Tolerance By Sonoma County Persecutors
Medical marijuana advocates said Friday that the court-ordered return of five pounds of marijuana to a Healdsburg man signifies a new tolerance by Sonoma County prosecutors and may also be the largest such return of pot in the state.
The Sonoma County District Attorney's office did not oppose the return of the marijuana after Richard Thiessen, 62, convinced them he had a doctor's recommendation to use it. Thiessen and his wife, Connie, were arrested in late April on suspicion of marijuana cultivation as a result of 70 plants that were uprooted at their Pine Flat Road home.
Charges were dropped against Connie Thiessen, 45. Her husband agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor possession of more than one ounce in exchange for felony charges being dropped against him.
Defense attorney Steve Spiegelman said prosecutors agreed to the return of three pounds, although the amount that was returned in Judge Elliot Daum's courtroom this week was actually more - five pounds of buds and plant material.
Spiegelman and medical marijuana advocates said they are unaware of any larger returns of medical marijuana since voters passed Proposition 215 four years ago, allowing use with a doctor's recommendation.
Ernest "Doc" Knapp, a spokesman for the Sonoma Alliance for Medical
Marijuana, said Sonoma County prosecutors have recently dropped a number of cases they would have pursued in the past.
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