Pubdate: Thu, 01 Feb 2001
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2001, Ventura County Star
Contact:  P.O. Box 6711, Ventura CA 93006
Fax: (805) 650-2950
Author: Bruce McLean, Ventura County Star writer


After tearful testimony from a Camarillo  woman who claimed marijuana
provided  her only relief from pain, prosecutors  decided Wednesday to
dismiss marijuana  cultivation charges against the woman and  her husband.

Lisa and Craig Schwarz were among the  first in Ventura County to
invoke  Proposition 215, the voter-approved  medical marijuana act, as
a defense  against criminal charges.

Sheriff's deputies arrested the couple  more than 18 months ago after
a search  of their home uncovered 68 marijuana  plants.

After several hours of testimony at a  preliminary hearing Wednesday,
and only  moments before a Superior Court judge was to decide if the
couple  should stand trial, Deputy District Attorney William Redmond
moved to  dismiss the case in the interest of justice.

"It does not appear the manner in which this (marijuana) was being
cultivated was unreasonable," Redmond said.

The sudden decision stunned Lisa Schwarz, who suffers from chronic
back pain and migraines.

"We're kind of numb. It's taken us a year-and-a-half to get this far,"
  Schwarz said.

Her attorney, J. David Nick of San Francisco, said the decision is a
sign  that prosecutors are beginning to better understand medical
marijuana  cases.

"If this decision came a year ago, it would have surprised me," Nick
said. "But the last year has been an educational process for the
District  Attorney's Office."

Lisa Schwarz, 44, had a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana for
pain relief after three back surgeries and a diagnosis of chronic
migraine syndrome. Craig Schwarz, 41, grew the plants for his wife,
who  could not perform the physical work necessary.

The Sheriff's Department said at the time of their arrest that there
were  too many plants for personal use and accused them of cultivation
of  marijuana and possession for sale. Prosecutors later dropped the
sales  charge but moved forward with cultivation charges.

During her testimony, Lisa Schwarz, a former nurse who now runs her
own publishing business, outlined her medical history, the ferocity of
her  pain, and her and her husband's efforts to grow their own marijuana.

At times Wednesday, she stood, kneeled and squirmed in her chair as
she testified. "I have pain every day of my life," she said.

The only drug that helped, without the side effects of prescription
drugs,  was marijuana. "My relief is immediate," she said. "I can
work. I don't  think about my pain so much ... I can function at a
level where I can  earn a living."

Much of the hearing centered on whether 68 plants were too many for
medicinal use. Schwarz testified that she smoked a quarter-to a
half-ounce a day and used other parts of the plant in making butter,
tea and other food products recommended by her doctor. A defense
expert testified that the plants would not have yielded an excessive
amount for Schwarz's use.

After the hearing, Redmond said the testimony convinced him the number
of plants was "not unreasonable."
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