Pubdate: Tue, 06 Nov 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Author: Monte Morin, Times Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Courts: Santa Ana Man Insists He Raises, Smokes Marijuana To Fight Pain. 
Prosecutors Say He Doesn't Need 60 Pounds.

Marvin Chavez freely admits he grows marijuana--and smokes it. He sprouted 
more than 60 pounds of the stuff in his backyard this year, all in full 
view of his Santa Ana neighbors.

But Chavez does take issue with police accusations that he is a drug seller.

At a court hearing Monday, 46-year-old Chavez pleaded innocent to charges 
of marijuana cultivation and possession for sale, and insisted he only 
raised and smoked the plants to fight the pain of a rare spinal disorder. 
Chavez is president of a local cannabis club and a key backer of the 
statewide proposition that legalized the use of marijuana for medical use. 
Two years ago, he was convicted on similar charges in a high-profile case 
that is still working its way through the court system.

In court Monday were more than a dozen supporters, who claim Chavez is 
being prosecuted only because of outspoken views--and actions--in using pot 
for medical purposes.

However, prosecutors said they had little choice but to press charges after 
finding such a large quantity of the drug in plain view.

"He claims to have a letter from a doctor saying he needs to use marijuana, 
but we felt he was growing far in excess of what he would need," Orange 
County Deputy Dist. Atty. Vickie Hix said.

Hix said the haul amounted to more than 60 pounds of marijuana--a quantity 
that would take him a dozen years to use if he smoked 12 joints a day.

Chavez faces up to three years in prison if he is found guilty of both 
charges. He was released on his own recognizance Monday, with Hix saying he 
posed no risk of fleeing.

Chavez has estimated he smokes about four marijuana joints a day to dull 
the pain of spinal arthritis, which was triggered in a 1991 car accident. 
He is appealing a 1999 conviction for selling and transporting marijuana. 
He describes both battles as a fight to preserve the state's controversial 
medicinal marijuana initiative.

"This is all because some people want to squash Proposition 215," Chavez 
said. "They want to discourage and intimidate people like me."

Prosecutors disagree. "The fact is, he had a large number of marijuana 
plants visible to the public," Hix said.
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