Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jul 2010
Source: Abilene Reporter-News (TX)
Copyright: 2010 Abilene Reporter-News
Author: Celinda Emison


Diaz has a California prescription for marijuana to treat his asthma.

Supporters of the 20-year-old man being held in Brown County for 
possession of medical marijuana have launched a campaign to secure 
his release by contacting government officials -- both state and 
local -- to plead his case.

But law enforcement officials in Brown County are standing by the 
arrest and incarceration of Chris Diaz, 20, who faces felony charges 
for having medical marijuana in his possession.

Diaz was on his way to Austin when he was arrested by Texas 
Department of Public Safety Trooper Martin Molotsky after a traffic 
stop June 27. During a search of Diaz's vehicle, the trooper said he 
discovered less than 2 ounces of marijuana and some hashish, a 
concentrated form of marijuana.

Molotsky pulled Diaz over at 2 a.m. on U.S. 67 after he noticed the 
1990 Mercedes had expired registration, according to Senior Trooper 
Sparky Dean, a spokesman for the DPS.

When asked for his license and insurance, Diaz informed Molotsky "he 
did not have one," Dean reported. "His name was requested numerous 
times, and he failed to give it to the trooper," Dean said.

The trooper then arrested Diaz for failure to identify. Diaz was 
searched, and a quantity of hashish was found on him. During a search 
of the vehicle, marijuana and hash were found. He later contacted the 
vehicle's owner, Diaz's mother, who said her son was traveling from Amarillo.

Diaz remains in custody at Brown County Jail, charged with the 
manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance more than 4 grams 
and less than 400 grams (hashish), a second-degree felony. Diaz also 
was charged with possession of marijuana, less than 2 ounces. His 
bonds total $40,000. Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor 
punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

On Sept. 1, 2007, a new law went into effect in Texas which gives 
officers the option of issuing a citation for possession of marijuana 
in quantities of 4 ounces or less.

Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs has said that no matter what -- 
medical marijuana or not -- pot is an illegal substance in Texas and 
those who violate the law will be arrested in Brown County.

Generally speaking, hash is very similar to marijuana, said local 
defense attorney John Young.

"It is more like marijuana than any other drug," Young said. "A 
$40,000 bond seems to be rather high."

Michael Murray, Brown County district attorney, said he expects the 
DPS to turn the case over to him.

"I haven't received the report yet," Murray said, adding that he will 
move forward on the case after he receives all of the documents. In 
an attempt to secure Diaz's release, the Rev. Sean Gunn, who 
represents the THC Ministry of Austin, and Diaz's mother have sent 
letters to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, as well as county and 
district officials.

Murray said he has received letters and documents from Diaz's camp 
lobbying for his release.

But Diaz's supporters are asking why he has not been assigned a 
public defender after being in jail for 14 days.

"Why has it taken two weeks to get the paperwork to him?" asked Steve 
Haag of the Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care, a nonprofit 
organization that supports the use of medical marijuana in Texas.

Brown County Chief Deputy Bobby Duvall disputes Haag's claims.

"Diaz has always had access to an attorney," Duvall said. "The jail 
has a pretty broad policy when it comes to allowing lawyers to see 
the inmates. They just have to play by obvious rules concerning security."

Haag implored county officials to understand that Diaz is an 
asthmatic who was being treated for the condition via a valid medical 
marijuana prescription from California.

"Why would you keep a kid with chronic asthma for two weeks without 
medication?" Haag asked. "Isn't that a liability to the county?"

Haag said that in most cases when marijuana is used medically, it is 
not smoked, but rather vaporized or eaten. "How is it possible that a 
sheriff's department is dictating medical treatment or the lack 
thereof?" Haag said.

Jail physicians are aware of Diaz's medical problems, Duvall said.

"Diaz will receive real medical attention, if necessary," Duvall 
said. "And no, we won't give him a joint to smoke if his 'asthma' kicks in."

Diaz's mother and Gunn have sent at least three forms to the Brown 
County Sheriff's Office alleging that Diaz's civil rights have been 
violated. Both claim that they are "sovereign citizens" who believe 
in the law of the U.S. Constitution. Gunn and others claim a federal 
civil rights violation is occurring because Diaz, a strict organic 
vegetarian, has been denied proper nutrition, health care and legal counsel.

In a letter to Sen. Hutchison, the woman who identifies herself only 
as "Chris' Mom" claims the marijuana was found in her son's suitcase 
in a "California compliant medicine bottle."

"My son does not take harmful drugs, or any drugs for that matter," 
she wrote. "He's only 20 and has never been through anything like 
this before and is now put with violent offenders."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart