Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2011
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


A young Mendocino man whose legal plight has become a cause celebre
for medical marijuana advocates appeared in Mendocino County court
Thursday in hopes of halting extradition to Texas.

Mendocino County Judge Ann Moorman told Chris Diaz' attorney, Don
Lipmanson, he needed to submit that request to Texas

"I don't have any jurisdiction," she said. But Moorman said she will
consider releasing Diaz on bail at a hearing she then scheduled for

Supporters of Diaz, 22, an asthmatic and father of two children, ages
1 and 4, contend that he is emblematic of the problems wrought by
inconsistent laws governing medicinal marijuana.

"The medical marijuana community here is up in arms about the criminal
exposure he's facing," Lipmanson said.

While it's in Mendocino County legal for Diaz to use marijuana to
treat his asthma, it is not in Brown County, Texas, where he was
arrested in 2010 for possessing small amounts of pot and hashish. He
faces a sentence of five years to 99 years in prison if convicted of
possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, as he
is charged.

Knowing that, Diaz decided not to return to Texas once he was released
on bail after 80 days in jail.

Diaz had about a quarter ounce of marijuana and 14 grams of
concentrated cannabis when he was pulled over while driving at night
in West Central Texas, said Lipmanson, his attorney. "This is by
California standards a very small amount," Lipmanson said.

Diaz' family and supporters believe that medicinal marijuana patients
from one state should be able to safely pass through another with
their medicine.

Texas law is the reason the family moved to California in 2007, said
Diaz' mother, Nona Martin.

Diaz had been sickly since birth, suffering from severe asthma and
allergic to about everything, she said. He's been hospitalized at
least two dozen times because of the asthma. He later developed life
threatening reactions to traditional asthma medications, including
collapsed lungs, Martin said.

When Diaz was 16, his physician recommended he try marijuana, she
said. The doctor also recommended that Diaz move to a state where
using marijuana is legal. The family, including his pregnant
girlfriend, settled just outside the town of Mendocino.

Martin said she was at first skeptical of having her asthmatic son
inhale marijuana, even with a vaporizer. But she said she's now sold
on the treatment.

Marijuana helps asthma in two ways, according to Dr. William Courtney,
a marijuana advocate and candidate for Congress who attended
Thursday's hearing. It relaxes the airways and acts as an expectorant,
inducing coughing that dislodges mucus, he said.

Diaz could die if he's imprisoned for long without his medication,
Courtney said. His risk is increasing in the Mendocino County jail,
where he's been held since Oct. 30 on a Texas arrest warrant, Courtney

Diaz' supporters also contend his arrest was made without adequate
cause. Diaz, who was visiting an ailing grandmother, initially was
told he was stopped for having an expired vehicle registration, but
that was not true, his mother said. The officer later admitted he
stopped the car because it was late at night and it had California
plates, she said.

Because Diaz could not produce a drivers' license -- which he does not
possess -- his vehicle was searched and the marijuana was found,
Martin said.

Diaz also did not initially provide the state trooper with his name.
"A name is not who we are. You know, it's basically fiction," he
explained during a videotaped jailhouse interview posted online.

The identification issue generated support for Diaz from the
anti-government activists in Texas. Their support did not help his
case, Diaz said.

Lipmanson said he'll contact Texas authorities to seek a delay of the
extradition order. Meanwhile, he said his priority is to get Diaz
released on bail.

"I understand Texas laws are different and ultimately he may have to
answer to the alleged crime in Texas. But this should not be done in a
way that jeopardizes his life," Lipmanson said. 
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