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


SACRAMENTO, - A federal jury in Sacramento has handed
down a guilty verdict in a case that could set a precedent for how
federal judges handle a California law allowing the medical use of

The jury today convicted 52-year-old B.E. Smith of Trinity County on
drug charges for a 1997 arrest in which police seized an 87-plant marijuana
garden,  which Smith claimed he used by prescription for treatment of
alcohol abuse.

Smith's attorney, Thomas Ballanco, said today's verdict ``was obscene,
like being witness to a rape.''

He said prosecutors ``dissected the truth'' from the case and the
defense was only allowed to put on a ``shred'' of character evidence.

That evidence included the testimony of actor Woody Harrelson, who met
the defendant at a 1996 protest on Golden Gate Bridge to demand
protection for the Headwaters redwood grove.

In Thursday's testimony, the former ``Cheers'' actor bridled under
Burrell's exclusion of Proposition 215 as a defense. The 1996 voter-
approved initiative allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for the
relief of pain and other symptoms.

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

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

Smith was denied a request for bail on appeal and is being held in
Sacramento County jail. He faces up to six years when he's sentenced 
on Aug. 6.
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