Pubdate: Thu, 6 Aug 2009
Source: Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)
Copyright: 2009 The Daily Camera.
Author: John Aguilar
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Advocates, Juror Agree That Sick People Should Decide How Much Pot Is 

BOULDER, Colo. -- Rolling out of the Boulder County Justice Center in 
a wheelchair Thursday with a jumble of once-confiscated pot in his 
lap, Jason Lauve smiled and waved to supporters after a jury 
acquitted him of possessing too much medical marijuana.

Eight men and four women found the 38-year-old Louisville resident 
not guilty of a felony drug possession charge, as well as lesser 
charges of possessing marijuana and marijuana concentrate.

Lauve, who was prescribed marijuana to relieve the pain from a back 
injury, burst out crying, grabbed his defense attorney and nearly 
fell to his knees when the verdict was announced.

"Thank you so much," he yelled out to the jurors.

Boulder District Judge Maria Berkenkotter had to pause and admonish 
Lauve's supporters as they applauded and called out during her 
reading of the verdicts.

She ordered that more than two pounds of Lauve's marijuana supply, 
which had been confiscated by police in a raid of his home last 
summer, be returned to him.

"I have a right to live," Lauve said afterward. "All of us as 
patients have a right to have our own life, not the government's 
life. We should not be treated like criminals."

Laurie Borgers, a medical marijuana patient from Denver, said she was 
elated by the verdict.

"I am happy and relieved as expected to see justice was served 
today," she said outside the courtroom. "They need to stop picking on 
sick people."

Lauve could have spent up to three years in prison had he been 
convicted of the most serious charge.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said Thursday his 
office will not appeal.

"That's the way the system works and we respect the jury's verdict 
and the work they put into it," he said.

State Law at Core of Case

Lauve's case cast a bright light on Colorado's 9-year-old medical 
marijuana law, which lets patients with chronic pain and in 
debilitating health obtain a state-issued ID card clearing them to 
grow and buy pot.

Lauve joined the state's medical marijuana registry after he was 
severely injured by a snowboarder who plowed into him at Eldora Ski 
Resort in 2004. He said the collision reduced him from an avid 
cyclist and expert telemark skier to someone who relies on a cane and 
wheelchair to get around.

He testified during his four-day trial that he smoked pot three times 
a day and mixed the drug into his food once daily to relieve his 
pain. Medical marijuana was the most effective pain management tool 
he had come across, Lauve told the jury, and the drug allowed him to 
wean himself off of several addictive opiate-based painkillers.

Law enforcement authorities, acting on a tip from a neighbor, seized 
34 ounces of marijuana from Lauve's home on June 26, 2008. 
Prosecutors claimed he violated the law by possessing far more than 
the 2 ounces of usable pot and six plants permitted by the statute.

But Lauve and his lawyer countered that the constitutional amendment 
voters approved in 2000 contains a provision that allows patients to 
present an "affirmative defense," ultimately giving them the power to 
determine the amount of marijuana appropriate for their needs.

Prosecutor Karen Lorenz contended in closing arguments that by 
ignoring the limits in the statute, patients and caregivers would 
essentially have "carte blanche" to possess whatever amount of pot 
they wanted, gutting the law's intent.

"There's no doctor to support this, there are random numbers being 
thrown around based on what he thinks he needs on a day-to-day 
basis," Lorenz told the jury. "That's not what the medical marijuana 
statute is for."

Lauve's attorney, Rob Corry, argued that prosecutors never came close 
to proving that his client was doing anything other than legally 
medicating himself and treating pain that only he could gauge.

"There is no evidence that he had more than what was medically 
necessary to treat his severe debilitating medical condition," Corry 
said. "Who gets to decide what is medically necessary?"

'We Believed You'

Jury foreman Roger Grady said after the trial that he and his 11 
colleagues simply attempted to interpret the state law as "common men" would.

"We believed you," he told Lauve outside the courthouse.

Grady, 64, said it was clear that the best person to determine how 
much medical marijuana a patient needs is the patient himself.

"We don't know what the limit is for medical marijuana, and the 
prosecution didn't produce anyone who knew what that limit was," he said.

If prosecutors were using Lauve as a "test case" for how the state's 
medical marijuana law should be applied, Grady said, they chose the 
wrong man. Grady accused prosecutors of not doing their "homework" 
and bringing a relatively weak case against Lauve.

"We thought, 'This guy is doing everything in the law as it was 
written,'" Grady said.

Garnett, the DA, said he didn't see the trial as a medical marijuana test case.

"It's a careful process we pursue to analyze a case," he said. "We 
try to treat every defendant individually and fairly."

But medical marijuana advocate Laura Kriho, of Boulder, said the case 
was a waste of public resources that brought misery upon a man who 
did nothing wrong.

She said she hopes Thursday's verdict will bring a fresh 
understanding of the importance of letting patients take the lead in 
determining the best treatments for themselves.

"The DA shouldn't be spending taxpayer dollars telling people how to 
medicate themselves," she said. "This sets a precedent that Boulder 
County juries are not going to convict medical cannabis patients for 
using the amount they see fit." 
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