Pubdate: Mon, 05 Nov 2007
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2007 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Brad Williams
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


If Suzette Evans lived in North Carolina, where  marijuana possession 
is decriminalized, it's unlikely  she'd have gotten more than a $50 
citation when police  found a pipe in her home.

In Grainger County, however, like most of Tennessee,  possession of a 
marijuana pipe can cost nearly $1,000 -  and your children.

Evans' 15-year-old son was taken away from her the  night of Aug. 10, 
to remain in protective custody for  34 days. They are reunited now, 
after a special meeting  with the Department of Children's Services, 
but a  hearing set for Nov. 16 will determine whether Evans' 
medicinal use of marijuana constitutes child abuse,  neglect or endangerment.

"I have narrow-angle glaucoma," Evans said. It is a  rare condition 
even among those with glaucoma.

Though Evans admits she recreationally used marijuana  when she was 
younger, she says she resumed smoking  small amounts to help her eyes.

"I come from an old hippie family," Evans said. "Do I  agree with the 
abuse? No."

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National  Organization 
for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said  uncontested medical research 
dating far back has shown  that marijuana smoking reduces intraocular 
pressure  with the first inhale to combat glaucoma, one of a  number 
of illnesses marijuana is used to treat.

St. Pierre said a man in 1976 successfully sued the  government to 
get medical marijuana.

"The disparity of how marijuana is treated in our  society is 
terrific," St. Pierre said. "Twelve (states)  have actually 
decriminalized the possession of  marijuana," usually less than 1 
ounce. Marijuana can be  legally medically used in 12 states as well.

"Tennessee is a state which has no accommodations for  people who use 
cannabis for medical purposes or  nonmedical purposes," St. Pierre 
said. "The Southeast  Untied States really yields no quarter to 
marijuana  smokers."

He said in California, for example, people can  medically smoke 
marijuana on the street in accordance  with state law.

"It's night and day between what's happening in eastern  Tennessee 
and the entire Western United States," he  said. "This woman is a 
victim of geography."

Evans has produced medical records showing she is being  treated for 
narrow-angle glaucoma. The records show a  decrease to an all-time 
low intraocular pressure during  the time she says she was using 
cannabis, and an  increase after she quit using it.

She quit when Rutledge police officer Adam Morgan found  her pipe 
July 24 during a search Evans consented to. No  marijuana was found.

Evans said her son did not know she used marijuana  until her pipe 
was found, and he had not been exposed  to it.

She had a court date set for the charge, and thought  that was the 
end of the matter.

On Aug. 10, Evans and her son, Jesse Johnson, got into  an argument 
and Evans called the police, as she had  done before.

"My son has a history of mental, emotional and  behavioral problems. 
He has been in treatment since the  age of 7," Evans said. She said 
they've had arguments  before and she's called the police.

"They've always been courteous, professional aE&  (they've) handled 
us with great respect," Evans said of  the Rutledge Police Department.

Officer Richard McGinnis responded to her call on Aug.  10 and took 
her son into protective custody. Evans and  her son allege that he 
began asking Jesse questions  only about Evans' use of marijuana.

"All of it" was because of the standing marijuana  charge, Evans 
said. "That officer knew that I had not  been sentenced yet."

The charge against her now is child abuse and child  neglect or 
endangerment, for admitting to smoking  marijuana in her home, which 
the warrant says "exposed  her 15-year-old son to illegal drugs."

"If the mother is using marijuana in front of the  child, does the 
child have accessibility to the illegal  drug, too?" McGinnis said.

McGinnis said at the time he took Johnson into  protective custody, 
he had no knowledge of the  marijuana charge, that he made the 
decision because of  the nature of the domestic dispute. He said 
there were other factors in the case which he could not yet  comment 
on. He also made the decision because the  police chief had been out 
to the house the previous  night.

"I thought there needed to be a separation between the  two 
individuals," he said. "(Evans) was irrational,  would not speak with me."

DCS took action from there, and the formal charge was  decided later.

Evans said she will fight back in civil court over a  host of issues 
and is thinking of starting her own  National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws  chapter, since the only two in Tennessee 
are university  affiliated. In the meantime, she says she is no 
longer smoking or receiving other glaucoma treatments, because  of 
concerns about side effects.

"I have stopped all conventional treatment for this  rare form of 
glaucoma, and I realize I'm jeopardizing  my quality of life. But if 
that's what I have to do to  make a stand, (I will)," she said.

She also said she will not go to a state with  medical-use laws.

"Why should I be forced to move from a state that I've  lived in for 10 years?"
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