FARMER BUSTED; DOCTOR'S NOTE SEIZED

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Newshawk: cannabisnews.com
Pubdate: Thu, 10 Aug 2000
Source: Antelope Valley Press (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Antelope Valley Press
Contact: editor@avpress.com

Author: Bart Weitzel, Valley Press Staff Writer

MEDICAL MARIJUANA FARMER BUSTED; DOCTOR'S NOTE SEIZED

Sheriff's deputies busted a small marijuana farm at a Lancaster trailer park Tuesday and
confiscated 11, 3-month-old plants after the park manager called to complain.

The problem is, marijuana farmer Robert Brittain has a note from his doctor.

Brittain said he contracted HIV through a blood transfusion when he was in the Army.
Today, he has full-blown AIDS and takes medication to bolster his immune system. The
drugs are very harsh, Brittain said, and cause him severe nausea.

"With the marijuana, I can keep the drugs down," he said.

Brittain is one of a small group of people who are legally allowed to possess, grow and use
marijuana under the "Compassionate Use Act of 1996."

The law, enacted by voters as Proposition 215 in November 1996, states in part that the
sections of law governing possession and cultivation of marijuana don't apply to a patient who
grows and or smokes it for medical purposes under the recommendation or approval of a
doctor.

Brittain has his doctor's recommendation and approval in writing, but said that the drugs plus
purchasing pharmaceutical marijuana cost him $400 a month.

"That is just for two cigarettes a day," Brittain said. "I also eat the leaf for pain relief.
Without it I have to take very strong narcotics - morphine and phentenol."

When deputies arrived Tuesday, Brittain allowed them to search his house and gave them his
written doctor's note and membership card to the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource
Cooperative.

The Cooperative is an organization where patients can obtain marijuana legally and is also a
source for legal information about the law enacted by Prop. 215.

"In most cases deputies are well aware of the law and tend to honor our ID cards," said Scott
Imler, president of the cooperative. "There's a number on the cards for them to call and most
of them do call."

Imler said the cooperative verifies the legitimate medical need for marijuana before issuing a
card to a patient.

Brittain said the deputies took his card and his doctor's note and did not return them. He said
that the deputies were courteous to him but would not listen to him about his legal right to
grow marijuana.

Brittain is upset because the deputies uprooted his plants and confiscated them. He said that
he has the legal right to grow them and that they represented three months' worth of
gardening work.

Pat Nelson, the sergeant in charge of the Lancaster narcotics crew, said the deputies could not
confirm the truth of Brittain's doctor's note, so they were required by investigative procedures
to confiscate the evidence.

"If we were to leave the plants there for him then we would have to do that for everybody we
catch cultivating marijuana," Nelson said. "Basically, we would have to excuse all instances of
cultivation."

Nelson said he was able to reach Brittain's doctor about an hour after deputies left and said he
confirmed that Brittain's prescription was valid.

He added that there was a question in the case about whether Brittain was growing more than
is allowed for personal use. Unfortunately, the compassionate use act does not specify
amounts for personal use and court precedents have had varying values.

"We tried to clear that up in the attorney general's task force meeting last year," Imler said.
"We tried to work out some clear guidelines, but we weren't able to reach an agreement with
narcotics officers, and that's where this gray area is. As the co-author of Prop. 215, I've got
to take my lumps for that."

Nelson said the case would be put in the hands of the district attorney's office for a legal
opinion about its merits.

Brittain called the office of Michael D. Antonovich, 5th District L.A. County supervisor, to
complain about the loss of his plants. He was referred to the sheriff's department's legal
adviser.

Brittain said that he was going to file a claim with Antonovich's office for $5,000 per plant.
Antonovich's office said Brittain has not yet requested a claim form.

Brittain has had run-ins with the law before, at least once for possessing marijuana and once
for possession of an explosive device, which blew up in his hand. Brittain said he was making
noisemakers to hide in his marijuana farm to warn him when thieves came to steal his plants.

Robert said he spent 18 months in jail after being convicted for the explosive.

"I went downhill fast. I spent most of my time in the hospital when I was in jail," he said.
"When I got out I was released into a hospice and they didn't expect me to live much longer."

He said that in less than a year, he has improved his health and is now up and walking around
at home.

"When they got me to the hospice and got me hooked back up with marijuana club, I was
able to keep my medication down again," he said. "My T-cells went from four to 200, which
is still full-blown AIDS but a lot better, and my viral load has gone from 950,000 to none."
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