Pubdate: Fri, 21 May 1999
Source: United Press International
Copyright: 1999 United Press International


SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 21 (UPI) - A case that could set a precedent for how
federal judges handle a California law allowing the medical use of marijuana
has gone to the jury.

The panel deliberating the case today heard yesterday from the defense's
final witness, actor Woody Harrelson, who got into an angry exchange with
U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr.

Harrelson, who first gained fame on the "Cheers" TV sitcom, bridled under
Burrell's exclusion of the state's Proposition 215 as a defense for the
actor's friend, 52-year-old B.E. Smith of Trinity County.

Burrell had said federal law doesn't make an exception for marijuana use
under  doctor's care, and refused a defense request to remove himself from
the trial.

Harrelson was called as a character witness for Smith. At one point, Burrell
ordered the actor to stop ignoring his guidelines or be placed under arrest.
Harrelson said, "I'm just wondering why you're keeping the truth from the
jury," in a reference to Proposition 215, the initiative passed by the
voters in 1996 that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for the relief of
pain and  other symptoms.

Ordered to leave the stand, the actor shot back, "How do you sleep at
night?" in a suggestion that the judge lacked conscience.

Harrelson said he met defendant Smith at a 1996 protest on Golden Gate
Bridge to demand protection for the Headwaters redwood grove. He also once
posted a $500,000 bond for a cancer patient facing criminal marijuana

Smith was charged in 1997 after officers seized an 87-plant marijuana
garden.  He said he used the drug by prescription as a cure for alcohol abuse.

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