Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jan 2006
Source: Missoula Independent (MT)
Copyright: 2006 Missoula Independent
Author: Jessie McQuillan
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A recent marijuana bust by Ravalli County officials in the home of a 
medical marijuana user promises to flesh out Montana's new and 
relatively untested medical marijuana law.

Ravalli officers arrested Bob Meharg at his home near Florence Jan. 
11 and confiscated nine marijuana plants and about 2 ounces of 
marijuana, along with paraphernalia including a pipe and gardening 
gear. Agents also seized Meharg's car, saying it was used to aid 
illegal actions, and charged him with three felonies carrying a 
potential total of 25 years in prison.

Meharg, 52, has suffered from diabetes and associated amputations and 
nerve damage for more than 30 years, as well as degenerative bone 
disease. He says he discussed and established his use of medical 
marijuana with his doctor as part of his treatment and that his 
medical records reflect his doctor's recommendation. At the time of 
his arrest, though, Meharg wasn't on Montana's medical marijuana 
registry, which protects medicinal users from prosecution, due to 
concerns that federal officials would use the information to prosecute him.

However, Montana's law, passed overwhelmingly by Montana voters in 
2004, includes an "Affirmative Defense" clause that protects people 
prosecuted for marijuana if they "ha[ve] a physician who states that 
or has medical records that indicate that the potential benefits of 
medical marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the person."

Since the law's recent implementation, that provision hasn't been 
tested, though at least one case similar to Meharg's is presently 
working its way through the courts.

Julio Morales, Meharg's attorney, says he's exploring that defense 
but didn't comment further. Ravalli County Attorney George Corn 
declined to discuss the matter until it's progressed in court.

Meanwhile, Meharg is trying to recover his car so he can address his 
medical problems. Last week, the military veteran and retired nurse 
hitchhiked to Missoula for a doctor's appointment after his partially 
amputated foot became infected during his jail stay. He says he's 
determined to fight his charges: "If they won't show compassion for 
the sick and impaired, what will they show for the average citizen? 
None," Meharg says.
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