Pubdate: Tue, 26 Oct 1999
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 1999, Ventura County Star
Author: Amy Bentley, Staff writer


A Camarillo couple charged with growing marijuana at their home made a court
appearance Monday with a group of out-of-town supporters, who wore T-shirts
urging people to back the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Lisa Schwarz, 43, of Camarillo says she uses marijuana to alleviate chronic
back pain and headaches caused by three back surgeries for disc problems.

"This is what she uses to not be a morphine addict," said her attorney, J.
David Nick of San Francisco.

Acting on an informant's tip, Ventura County Sheriff's Department agents
obtained a search warrant and raided the Dewayne Avenue home Lisa Schwarz
shares with her husband, Craig Schwarz, on July 8.

Police confiscated suspected growing equipment and 68 marijuana plants. The
couple were growing 17 plants in a closet, seven in a shed and 44 in the
back yard. The plants were in different stages of growth, so Lisa Schwarz
would have cannabis year-round, her lawyer said.

She and her 40-year-old husband were arrested and charged with cultivating
marijuana and possessing it for sale. They also are accused of possessing
opium poppies, Deputy District Attorney Chris Harman said.

He declined to discuss details of the case -- the only criminal one pending
in local courts where a defendant is claiming a medical marijuana defense.

The Schwarzes appeared in Superior Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing
on the evidence against them, but the hearing was postponed to Dec. 1. The
couple and their supporters wore T-shirts that said, "Stop Arresting Patients."

Craig Schwarz's attorney said his client is protected from prosecution under
the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 as the primary caregiver for his wife, who
walks with a cane. "He helps her do everything," attorney Michael Mehas said.

Lisa Schwarz has the required physician's recommendation to use marijuana
for medical purposes. But the voter-approved law is vague on just how much a
patient can grow or possess for personal use, Mehas said.

When the Sheriff's Department announced the couple's arrest in July,
officials said the number of plants found indicated they weren't just for
personal use. But the Schwarzes deny selling any marijuana.

The couple's attorneys hope police agencies countywide will develop a system
to investigate medical marijuana patients without first arresting them and
destroying their crops.

Lisa Schwarz said she used to get marijuana from Andrea Nagy's medical
cannabis center in Thousand Oaks until authorities closed it in February
1998. Judge William Peck ruled Nagy was not a "primary caregiver" as defined
by Proposition 215, the initiative voters approved as the Compassionate Use Act.

Schwarz said she began growing her own marijuana because she had nowhere to
get it safely.

Now, she must take prescription muscle relaxers and sleeping aids that have
negative side effects and sometimes prevent her from working at home
publishing legal books and scholarship yearbooks, she said.

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