Pubdate: Fri, 05 Nov 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, Record Searchlight, MAN'S POT CROP: FOR MEDICINE OR MONEY?

Opening Arguments Begin In Case For Redding Man

A jury learned Thursday that it must decide whether a Redding man's
marijuana supply and backyard crop were his medicine or his illegal

Opening arguments began Thursday in the criminal case against Richard
Levin, 49, whose attorney said he smokes marijuana to treat pain from a
1993 third-story fall and four subsequent back surgeries.

But Shasta County Deputy District Attorney Laura Sheehy said the 41 young
plants Levin was growing in his back yard "far exceeded" the amount one
patient would need for personal use.

"The evidence will show that the defendant is attempting to hide his
illegal activity behind the Compassionate Use Act," Sheehy said.

That law, passed in California in 1996, allows for seriously ill patients
to grow and use marijuana if they have their doctor's oral or written

Levin's attorney, Eric Berg of Redding, said his client's doctor will
testify that he had spoken with Levin about medicinal marijuana use on
several occasions and that Levin's use was "OK" with the doctor.

After his surgeries, Levin was medicated with heavy narcotic drugs, Berg
said. He suffered from severe muscle spasms in his eyes and legs.

He was two inches shorter because the splintered bone of his spine had to
be removed by doctors, who later put a titanium plate along his backbone.
He lost 30 pounds because the drugs took away his appetite and made it hard
to keep food down. In addition, Berg said Levin suffers from the hepatitis
C virus.

"For Rick Levin, marijuana was a miracle drug," Berg said. "It allowed him
to be a dad, to be Mr. Mom" and stay home with his children.

However, prosecutor Sheehy said earlier that the packaged marijuana, some
of which was in 1-ounce and 4-ounce containers or baggies, showed the pot
was ready for sale, not for Levin's use. Deputies found $450 in cash in a
safe near the marijuana.

As her first witness, Sheehy called sheriff's deputy Tom Barner, who said
smaller, by-the-ounce packaging is consistent with a selling operation.

Depending on its quality and strain, an ounce of pot can have a street
value of $150 to $400, he said. Barner was the lead detective of the
Sheriff's Department Marijuana Eradication Team when it searched Levin's
August Way home on May 6, 1998.

Berg said his client's supply of marijuana simply came packaged that way
when he bought it.

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

Reporter Kimberly Bolander can be reached at 225-8339 or - ---
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