Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jun 2010
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2010 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Sanne Specht


Quantity of 'usable' pot is at issue in the case of  local cardholder
convicted of possessing too much of  the substance

Medical marijuana supporters are threatening lawsuits  and rallying
around a Medford man they say was  wrongfully convicted of felony
charges related to a  September arrest.

Joshua Brewer, 22, was found guilty June 2 of a single  count each of
manufacturing and possessing a  substantial amount of marijuana after
a two-day jury  trail in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Local members of the National Organization for the  Reform of
Marijuana Laws (NORML) protested Brewer's  sentencing hearing Tuesday
morning. The group is  seeking donations to appeal Brewer's conviction
and is  threatening a federal civil rights lawsuit against the  city
of Medford, its Police Department and individual  officers.

Brewer and two other medical marijuana cardholders were  growing
cannabis at their Spring Street residence in  Medford when Brewer was
arrested Sept. 27 for having  more "usable" marijuana than his medical
card allowed,  said his former public defender Michael Bertholf.

A press release from NORML said Medford police were  either unaware of
laws regarding medical marijuana,  deliberately ignoring the law or
blatantly violating  it.

"Or none of the above," said Medford Police Deputy  Chief Tim George,
who attended the sentencing hearing,  which was postponed to allow a
new defense attorney to  better familiarize himself with the case.

George said his officers were well aware of the law and  followed
policy. Medford police arrest at least one  medical marijuana
cardholder per week, George said.

"Marijuana is still a Schedule I drug and there is  plenty of abuse,"
George said. "The state presented  their case and (Brewer) was
convicted. People have a  right to appeal their case, or accuse us of
civil  violations. That's not going to change the way we do  business."

The three Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholders  at the Spring
Street residence were legally entitled to  collectively possess up to
4.5 pounds of usable  marijuana. Medford police seized 5.28 pounds in
the  raid, Bertholf said.

In the trial, Bertholf asked Judge Ray White to dismiss  all charges
against Brewer. The plants seized had been  harvested just days before
the raid, he said, and about  half of the material was not usable marijuana.

"The state tested one exhibit that had some 40 grams of  usable
marijuana, part of it included unidentified  plant material and also a
bag of moldy material that  was unidentifiable," Bertholf said. "I
felt that due to  the inaccuracy of the weight, our motion should have
  been granted."

White dismissed weapons and endangering charges against  Brewer. But
the judge ruled the possession and  manufacturing charges would stand,
allowing jurors to  determine how much of the marijuana was usable.

The jury found Brewer guilty of the two felony drug  charges on June 2
after two hours of deliberation.  Bertholf said he expected Brewer
would receive  probation, but noted his client could receive up to 10
years and fines of $250,000 for each guilty verdict.

On Tuesday Brewer appeared before White for his  sentencing hearing
accompanied by Portland attorney  Leland Berger. Berger, who assisted
in drafting the  Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, represents medical
marijuana patients and their caregivers statewide.  Berger said he was
hired Monday to replace Bertholf and  represent Brewer.

"I was hired to represent Mr. Brewer, but not by  NORML," Berger said,
declining to say who hired him.

Berger said medical marijuana patients and providers  are being caught
in the gray areas of the current OMMP  laws. Those laws were amended
in 2005 and increased the  amount of marijuana that could be possessed
in exchange  for limiting options for defense in these types of  cases.

Berger said there is often confusion over how much of  the cannabis
seized is actually "usable."

"This is an ongoing issue," Berger said. "Patients and  providers are
trying to comply. But they are being  arrested and

At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, White granted Berger's  request for
postponement to allow the lawyer to  familiarize himself with the
case. Brewer's next  hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on June 29. 
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