Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jan 2001
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Marin Independent Journal
Contact:  150 Alameda del Prado, Novato, CA 94949
Author: Richard Halstead
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The Marin district attorney's office yesterday dropped charges against a 
Greenbrae resident charged with illegally cultivating 19 marijuana plants 
adjacent to his trailer home, and Marin Superior Court Judge Verna Adams 
ordered that his plants be returned to him.

"Basically, I just want to be left alone," said Robert Voelker, a 
construction worker who says he uses marijuana to ease back pain. He faced 
maximum penalties of up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Twin Cities Police Chief Phil Green said yesterday he disagrees with the 
district attorney's decision to drop charges. Twins Cities police arrested 
Voelker in August and worked closely with the district attorney's office 
over a two-month period preparing the case.

"I was very bothered by it," Green said. "What concerns me is there is 
probably no reason to arrest anybody for possession of marijuana in Marin 

It was the second time Voelker has escaped prosecution for growing 
marijuana. The district attorney's office declined to prosecute him in 1998 
after Twin Cities police confiscated 31 marijuana plants at the same site.

The decision comes as District Attorney Paula Kamena faces the probability 
of a recall election in May.

Lynnette Shaw, founding director of the Marin Alliance for Medical 
Marijuana, helped organize an effort that collected nearly 14,000 
signatures of registered voters to force the recall. Shaw contends that 
Kamena has not complied with Proposition 215, which legalized the medical 
use of marijuana.

But Assistant District Attorney Edward Berberian said the recall effort 
"was not a factor that we put into the decision."  The charges were dropped 
because after his arrest, Voelker was able to secure a legitimate doctor's 
recommendation as required under Proposition 215, Berberian said.

A judgment was made that, given the circumstances, a Marin jury would not 
hand down a conviction, Berberian said.

Green said he would consult with legal counsel before complying with Adams' 
order to return Voelker's marijuana. Green said he isn't sure if he should 
return all of the marijuana or just the amount that Kamena has indicated 
patients may possess without facing the possibility of prosecution.

After his 1998 arrest, Voelker filed a $30,000 claim against police to get 
his plants back and a $5,000 small claims suit. Both were rejected.

Shaw has an entirely different take on the situation.

"It was very unfair for him to be charged in the first place since the 
district attorney had already dropped charges against him for 30 plants the 
year before. They came back after him and busted him for 13 plants. This is 
typical of the wrongful arrest and confiscation policy of Paula Kamena," 
Shaw said.

Shaw maintains that Kamena's estimation of how much marijuana an individual 
needs to grow for personal use - six mature or 12 immature plants - is 

"This is precisely the type of case that illustrates why we want to recall 
Kamena," Shaw said.

Chief Green said Voelker was warned after his 1998 arrest - when he had 31 
plants and three pounds of dried marijuana - that he was not complying with 
the law, lacked a doctor's recommendation, and needed to be certified by 
the county's department of health and human services.

"Well, he didn't do that," Green said. After his arrest in August, Green 
said Twin Cities officers contacted two doctors who wrote statements 
regarding Voelker's marijuana use. Both doctors denied prescribing 
marijuana for his medical problems, Green said.

It is not his intention to arrest people who are legitimate medical 
marijuana users, Green said. "But this guy is just using the system," he said.

Voelker said the physicians were intimidated. "What doctor wants law 
enforcement showing up at their door? Physicians are scared to recommend it 
in the first place," he said.

Voelker estimates that the plants that Twin Cities police confiscated would 
have produced seven to 10 pounds of dried marijuana. He said he uses more 
than a half-ounce of marijuana  per week.

"A cigarette smoker that smokes a single pack is going through nearly an 
ounce of tobacco per pack, and they're killing themselves. But they trip if 
I smoke an ounce in a week or two weeks," Voelker said.

"The half-pound supply that Marin says you can have is maybe two or three 
months' supply for me at most. It doesn't reduce the amount I get; it just 
forces me to go to the club and buy it," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager