Pubdate: Mon, 23 Dec 2002
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe,CA)
Contact:  2002 Tahoe Daily Tribune
Author: William Ferchland
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Note: More on the Macosko case


The dreadlocks are gone, replaced by a crop of straight brown hair. His
wrists were still bound by handcuffs. A white jail jumpsuit, indicating
kitchen duties, clothed Matt Macosko rather than the customary orange.

Macosko, in custody since Oct. 16 when police found about 11 ounces of
marijuana in his vehicle, was sentenced to nine months in El Dorado County
Jail and three years probation Friday after pleading no contest to
possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

The sentencing marked a subdued conclusion for Macosko, a self-titled
medical marijuana provider who had numerous encounters with authorities who
believed him to be a drug dealer. Three related marijuana cases, including
providing the drug to a minor and mailing marijuana, were dismissed at the

Hardly recognizable with his new appearance, Macosko, 30, told Judge Suzanne
Kingsbury that his marijuana days are over.

"I'm sorry for taking the court and law enforcement's time," Macosko said.
"I would like to go forward with my life."

Defense attorney Ean Vizzi, who flew from San Francisco to Reno to make the
hearing, described Macosko as a medical marijuana provider who tried to
follow Proposition 215, a California law passed in 1996 enabling sick people
to use marijuana as an option for medicine.

During the Oct. 16 arrest, police found medicinal marijuana prescriptions in
the blue converted school bus in which Macosko lived. A woman suffering from
hepatitis and cancer who received marijuana from Macosko spoke on his

"Matt's motive this entire time is of compassion," Vizzi said. "It wasn't to
make a profit but to help people."

Deputy District Attorney Mike Atwell had a different opinion of Macosko, who
in 1996 pleaded no contest to a similar charge. Atwell said there was no
evidence of Macosko's being a medical marijuana provider. People who saw
Macosko distribute marijuana from his bus didn't see him check
identification or people's prescriptions, the prosecutor said.

"He's been in front of this court before for the same things," Atwell said.
"He verbally claims being a marijuana caregiver but we have not been
provided with any evidence independently reviewed or considered."

The district attorney's office does not prosecute people who have "credible
evidence for (being a) bona fide medicinal marijuana" provider, Atwell said.

Kingsbury listened to the statements, including those from a nurse at Barton
Memorial Hospital who praised his friend Macosko's gentle character, and
weighed the probation's recommendation for "substantial" time in custody,
meaning anywhere from 271 to 365 days in jail.

The judge expressed her dismay with Proposition 215, calling it poorly
written, offering no guidance and making marijuana available to people with
common symptoms.

"The long and short of it is the law is a mess," Kingsbury said.

Macosko pushed the limits with the medical marijuana stance, Kingsbury said,
while not letting go of the fact Macosko was in court convicted of being in
possession of marijuana for sale.

Kingsbury ordered Macosko to enroll in the jail's drug and alcohol education
program called H.E.A.R.T.S. If he completes the program early, he could be
released sooner. During Friday's court proceeding, Kingsbury granted Macosko
98 days for time already served.

At the tail end of the sentencing, Kingsbury wished luck and success to
Macosko, who will likely move to Santa Barbara to live with his mother and
work in construction.

Outside the courtroom, Vizzi stopped short of saying the sentence was fair
for his client, but said it was expected.

"I think he has put his days of being a martyr behind him," Vizzi said
before exiting into a snowstorm.
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