Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jul 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397


Shasta County's saga of prosecuting medicinal marijuana patients hit a
new low last week when a disabled man was ordered into a courtroom for
possessing several joints' worth of the drug.

Superior Court Judge Gregory Caskey did the right thing Monday when he
wasted little time and dismissed the case against Frank Port, a
29-year-old Anderson man who has skeletal birth defects. Port, who
uses a wheelchair, has his doctor's permission to use marijuana for
his condition under voter-approved Proposition 215.

As Port's attorney, Janice Mackey of Redding, pointed out: "The choice
is marijuana or suicide."

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brent Ledford asked for the dismissal
as Caskey was examining the pot recommendation from Port's doctor.
Throwing out the misdemeanor charge at the settlement conference was a
no-brainer. It's a wonder a case such as this even made it into a courtroom.

Ledford indicated Thursday that dismissal was appropriate. "Our job is
to do justice," he said. From a layman's perspective, justice would
have been better served if Port didn't have to fight the charge and
recruit an attorney in the first place.

Ledford wouldn't say it was a mistake to charge Port because his case
also involved two caregivers who are charged with marijuana
trafficking. Port and the caregivers were stopped in a van on May 3 in
Redding while they allegedly were hauling 24 marijuana plants intended
for a garden. Port said Redding police confiscated 40 grams of
marijuana from him, but he was only charged with possessing 2 grams.

Police returned six plants the next day to one of the caregivers and
another patient who is not charged in the case. Possessing three
indoor plants apiece follows informal guidelines adopted by the
Redding Police Department and Shasta County Sheriff's Office for
medical marijuana.

What remains to be seen is how the Shasta County court system will
deal with the two caregivers under the proposition. They are due in
court next month for separate hearings. Transportation and cultivation
of marijuana is not addressed under Proposition 215, Ledford said.
What's more, there's no allowance under federal law for a caregiver to
grow marijuana.

So Shasta County muddles along without clear direction from the state
on how to handle these "medipot" cases. It's a shame that legitimate
card-carrying medical pot patients like Frank Port aren't left alone
as the Compassionate Use Act intended.
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