Pubdate: Tue, 01 Feb 2000
Source: Calaveras Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Calaveras Enterprise
Contact:  15 N. Main Street/P.O. Box 1197, San Andreas, CA  95249
Fax: (209) 754-4396
Author: Scott Mobley


A Calaveras County jury on Friday acquitted an Angels Camp man  of
felony cannabis cultivation charges and charges of possession for sale.

However, the jury found William Harrison, a local sculptor, guilty of
being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Barbara Yook, the Calaveras County deputy district attorney
prosecuting the case, declined comment on the verdict.

But medical marijuana advocates said they  hope the verdict will cool
local law enforcement's zeal to prosecute legal users.

"I'm very happy the jury did the right thing," said defense attorney
William Logan, adding that his client was growing for his own use
rather than running a commercial drug operation.

"I think it's a wonderful step forward for all the medically needy
people in Calaveras County to have the prosecution and the police told
to follow the law."

Dennis Downum, Calaveras County sheriff, was unavailable for comment
Monday afternoon.

Harrison, a long-time medical marijuana user, has a felony conviction
dating back to 1988 when he pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis in
Calaveras County.

He could face up to three years in prison on the gun charge if a judge
imposes the full sentence.

In the case that was decided Friday, sheriff's deputies seized 64
cannabis plants and arrested Harrison in September, 1998.

Authorities prosecuted Harrison although he had two marijuana
"prescriptions" Logan said, written by Arnold doctor Mike Kifune and a
Bay Area physician.

California's Prop. 215, passed by the voters in 1996, allows doctors
to recommend smoking marijuana for patients who suffer from a wide
range of conditions.

Harrison showed deputies the doctors' notices when they searched his
home for plants, Logan said.

Deputies also found a 22-caliber rifle in Harrison's

Harrison's 84-year-old mother had given him the gun -- a 1976 replica
of an 1876 revolver -- to keep it away from his 87-year-old father,
who was dying of Parkinson's disease and deeply despondent, Logan said.

"It's hardly the gun of choice for drug dealers," Logan said, adding
that his client had had the gun about two weeks before his arrest and
had temporarily forgotten about the circumstances of his 1988 felony

Logan said he hopes the judge gives Harrison community service rather
than jail time, pointing out that the county would have to take over
paying for the inmate's medical costs.

Harrison uses marijuana and other drugs to allay the severe pain,
nausea, tinnitus and vertigo stemming from a chest infection he
contracted a number of years ago, Logan said.

Prosecutors contended that Harrison was growing too much pot for his
own consumption.

Arresting officer Eddie Ballard testified that authorities found
$500,000 worth of cannabis in Harrison's two outdoor gardens. Yook
told jurors that Harrison would have to smoke 57 joints a day to use
up that pot in a year.

But that amount is not unreasonable for patients growing their own
medicine, testified Chris Conrad, a self-described "cannabis expert"
from El Cerrito.

Patients usually cultivate more than a year's supply to insulate
themselves against the risks of growing, Conrad explained.

Logan said the trial has emotionally and financially ruined his
client, who has had to appeal to family members for loans to make his
house payments and pay his bills. 
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