HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana Use Could Be Used As Defense, Federal
Pubdate: Tue, 23 Mar 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Laura Wides, Associated Press
Note: To read Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion visit
Cited: Americans for Safe Access


LOS ANGELES - A couple charged with growing marijuana may be allowed
to present evidence to a jury that it was being used for medicinal

Monday's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Nora M. Manella to allow
Anna Barrett and her husband, Gary, to make such a case comes in the
wake of a December ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The December ruling concluded that a congressional act outlawing the
drug may not apply to sick people with a doctor's recommendation in
states with medical marijuana laws.

Manella ordered Barrett, 32, and her 35-year-old husband to stand
trial Aug. 31. They are to return to court July 19 to outline the
grounds for their defense.

"I'm still overwhelmed," Anna Barrett, said after the hearing. "I'm
really grateful to Judge Manella that she's even allowing us to show
our case."

Defense lawyers wanted the charges dismissed based on the appellate
court's ruling. But Manella said the government had enough evidence
that the couple may have been growing their marijuana for a
"commercial operation," allowing the case to go to trial.

The judge also warned Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Loeser that if
the government can't show at trial that the couple were indeed growing
the marijuana for that purpose, prosecutors will likely have a weak

"If a jury believes they were growing marijuana solely for themselves
and not for distribution, why would they not be entitled to an
acquittal?" she asked.

Steph Sherer, head of the nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group,
Americans for Safe Access, who uses medical marijuana, said she was
buoyed by the decision.

"Before now people like me would have to either go to trial and
basically offer no defense, because we couldn't mention medical
marijuana, or plead and depend on the judge's discretion in
sentencing," Sherer said.

The Barretts, who both have physician approval to use the drug,
pleaded guilty in 2000 to growing marijuana. Under a plea agreement,
they were allowed to grow 34 adult-flowering plants and keep up to 7.1
pounds of pot.

But federal agents said they found hundreds of dormant clones of the
plants during a May 13, 2003, raid. They also said the couple were
running a Web site with information on medical marijuana and charging
people $100 to become members.

The Barretts are also wanted in Oregon on marijuana charges.

U.S. Deputy Public Defender Angel Navarro said the couple were afraid
to return to Oregon before their federal trial because a state
conviction could add years to any potential sentence.
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