Pubdate: Thu, 03 Feb 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Page: Front Page
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author: Maline Hazle
Bookmark: MAP's link to medical marijuana articles is:


Medical marijuana user Jim Hall took the witness stand in his own
defense Wednesday, telling jurors about the 1993 accident that he said
left him in excruciating pain and virtually ruined his life.

``I've always been a physical person. (After the accident) I couldn't
weld anymore, I couldn't carry a chain saw, turn a wrench, drive a
semi (truck),'' Hall said in Shasta County Superior Court.

``It broke my heart. It made me scared. I have four children to
support and how am I going to support four children if I didn't work?''

Hall, 38, and his mother, Lydia Hall, 62, both of Redding, are accused
of cultivation and conspiracy to cultivate marijuana. Jim Hall also is
charged with possession of marijuana for sale.

In his testimony Hall told of taking myriad drugs to combat the pain
he suffers from two injured disks in his back and an unsuccessful
surgery to alleviate that damage. He wrenched his back trying to save
a load of computers that had shifted in his truck.

He said he weighed 250 pounds when he was injured, but dropped 100
pounds because the narcotics he took made him too nauseous to eat.

He also said that he began smoking marijuana because he found that it
``kind of took the edge off of it (the pain) like the narcotics did
and also took my mind off it, which helps, too.''

Hall said marijuana relieves his nausea, ``almost makes it go away ...
and it makes me hungry. I can eat.

``I'm up to 170 pounds and I've held this weight for longer than I
have in the past,'' he said.

Hall's attorney, Eric Berg of Redding, asked his client if he had told
any of the several doctors who were treating him for pain that he was
smoking marijuana and that it worked.

``Every single one of them,'' Hall replied.

One Redding doctor told him, ``if it works, use it,'' Hall said, but
declined to write him a recommendation for marijuana as permitted
under Proposition 215.

Instead, ``he referred me to the only doctor in the county that he
knew would write me a medical marijuana prescription ... Dr. Frank
Fisher,'' Hall testified.

Fisher, 46, ran a clinic in Anderson and was arrested last year in
connection with Medi-Cal fraud and the alleged overdose deaths of
three patients for whom he prescribed the opium-based narcotic
oxycodone. Also charged in that case were pharmacist Stephen Miller,
49, and his wife Madeline Miller, 45, both of Redding.

After a preliminary hearing, those charges were reduced from murder to
three counts of involuntary manslaughter for Fisher and two for
Stephen Miller. Murder charges against Madeline Miller were dismissed,
though 19 alleged Medi-Cal fraud charges stand against the trio, who
are awaiting trial.

Though Hall didn't go to Fisher for a marijuana recommendation, his
mother did, according to court testimony. She wanted a prescription
for the drug to alleviate symptoms of glaucoma and the side effects of
drops prescribed to reduce pressure in her eyes, the defense contends.

Fisher's written recommendation was discussed in court Wednesday and
Berg told Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman that the doctor had
been subpoenaed to appear as a witness, but did not show up.

While jurors were out of the courtroom after the noon recess, Berg
said that he had talked to Fisher's attorney, Patrick Hallinan of San
Francisco, on Monday and reiterated the validity of the Dec. 15
subpoena and the need for Fisher to be in court Wednesday afternoon.

Hallinan asked, ``'Why are you doing this? My guy is just going to
take the Fifth (Amendment),''' Berg told Boeckman, saying that he
might have to ask for a continuance in the trial.

After the jurors had left for the day, Boeckman said he could issue a
bench warrant at Berg's request if Fisher doesn't show up in court
today. During his time on the stand Wednesday, Hall testified about,
how he got his recommendation for marijuana use from a Berkeley doctor
on Oct. 30, 1998, then returned to Redding and called the Shasta
County district attorney's office and Redding police.

``I explained ... that I had a permanent injury and a medical
marijuana prescription and intended to start a small indoor grow.

``I asked if I would be arrested or if there were any legal problems
with this'' (under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act approved by voters).

He said he got no response from either agency, and in November 1998 he
planted seeds under lights in his bedroom closet. Many of those plants
died and he harvested only seven ounces of marijuana from the crop,
Hall testified.

Hall said he uses about an ounce of marijuana a week and since it
takes three or four months for a crop to mature he knew he needed to
expand his garden.

His 240 clones and seedlings were planted about two weeks before drug
investigators raided his house March 16 last year, he said.

Deputy District Attorney Tim Kam, who is prosecuting Hall, began
cross-examination Wednesday afternoon, intent on proving that Hall has
a history of marijuana use and planted pot to get high and sell.

Hall admitted that he first smoked marijuana when he was 18 and that
had used it recreationally every month or two, on and off, until he
was in his late 20s.

But he had been driving a truck for a living in the years prior to his
accident and had not smoked marijuana for at least 21/2 years, he insisted.

Kam also asked Hall about the thoroughness of the medical exam he was
given before obtaining his recommendation for pot, raising questions
about whether the doctor took X-rays or performed other tests.

Hall said he had given the doctor his medical records, including
X-rays, cat-scans and MRIs and underwent another examination that
lasted at least an hour.

Then ``I was told to smoke what I needed,'' Hall testified.

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, Berg said that he may file a motion
today, in connection with another medical marijuana case, asking Judge
Boeckman to declare Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope in contempt of
court -- a finding that could send the sheriff to his own jail for
five days.

Berg contends that Pope violated Boeckman's order that deputies return
seized marijuana to Richard Levin, a 49-year-old Redding man acquitted
Dec. 15 in a case similar to Hall's.

Federal drug agents seized Levin's marijuana the same day he was to
have retrieved it from the Sheriff's Department.

Testimony in Hall's trial is expected to resume today.
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