Pubdate: 29 Oct, 1999
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 1999 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author:  Kimberly Bolander
Note: Ms. Bolander may be contacted at MARIJUANA CASE ABOUT PAIN, LAW

A Redding couple discreetly growing marijuana in their back yard have found 
themselves the north state's spokespeople for medical marijuana use since 
their arrest in 1998 for drug possession.

But now, husband Richard Levin isn't doing much talking.

The 49-year-old, who suffers from hepatitis C and a missing vertebra, is 
about to begin a trial based on a doctor's note - or lack thereof.

He is charged with cultivation and possession for sale pot.  Shasta county 
prosecutor Laura Sheehy requested Thursday to add an enhancement that Levin 
was in possession of eight firearms at the time of his arrest.

If found guilty of all allegations, he could be sentenced to seven years in 
prison, but his Redding attorney, Eric Berg, said he believes the most 
Levin could face is four.

Pretrial motions are scheduled to continue today.  Jury selection is set 
for Tuesday.  Meanwhile, Levin said he'd like to tell his story, but his 
attorney has advised him otherwise.

His wife, Kim Levin, 35 spoke Thursday on his behalf.

"When this happens to you, you wonder how they're going to twist 
everything.  Are they going to paint it like he's got two joints sticking 
out of his face and blowing smoke in everyone's way? It's unbelievable. 
You're following the law, but law enforcement won't tell you how to follow 
the law," she said.

Kim Levin once faced the same charges as her husband, but prosecutors 
dropped them in August because of a lack of evidence.  Thursday, she waited 
outside the courtroom where she will eventually testify in the trial.

Inside, Richard Levin sat in a lawn chair rather than one of the hard 
wooden seats at the attorney's tables.  He often leaned forward, rubbing 
his legs or changing position.  His condition makes it difficult to sit or 
stand for long, his wife said.

The Levin's troubles began with a contracting job accident in 1993, she 
said.  Levin fell from the third floor of a house he was helping to build, 
landing on his back.  After several operations on his spine, and a few 
years on heavy narcotics, Levin began to worry about how the drugs were 
affecting his liver.  He began to wean himself off the prescription 
drugs.  Now, he only uses Darvocet and smokes marijuana to relieve the 
pain, his wife said.

"It was not an intention to decrease the narcotics so he could increase the 
cannabis.  It was because the was so in fear.  In fear of killing himself 
(through the use of prescription drugs).  He didn't want to die of liver 
failure, " Kim Levin said.

She said Levin has had his doctor's oral recommendation to use marijuana 
"at least" since the "Compassionate Use Act" passed the California 
Legislature in 1996.  The law protects seriously ill patients who have the 
written or oral approval of their doctors, allowing them to grow and use 
pot to treat AIDS, cancer, chronic pain, "or any other illness for which 
marijuana provides relief." It does not specify how many plants a patient 
may have.

Richard Levin was arrested May 6, 1999, and held in Shasta County Jail for 
three days, after authorities allegedly found 41 seedlings in his back yard 
and 1 1/2 pounds of packaged marijuana in the Levin's bedroom.

Since then, the Levin's have been contacted by other pot patients, who Kim 
Levin said are too scared to question law enforcement thus revealing 
themselves.  They have founded the Shasta Patients Alliance and spoken with 
county supervisors, sheriff's deputies, Redding police officers and even 
the district attorney about medical marijuana.

Until the trial, attorneys on both sides of the case are keeping its 
details behind a smoke screen of their own - they have declined to comment.

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