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Grower found guilty in medical marijuana case

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OLYMPIA -- A jury found Monica Ginn guilty Wednesday of charges that she
grew and distributed marijuana, sparking ire among medical marijuana
advocates. Jurors also decided Ginn, 53, qualifies for a more severe
sentence because her growing operation was within 1,000 feet of a
designated school bus stop. She faces up to five years in jail, but her
attorneys promised to appeal the case as high as the Washington Supreme Court.

Kevin Johnson, Ginn's court- appointed attorney, said he wasn't surprised
by the verdict because an earlier ruling by Judge Thomas McPhee forbade him
from presenting medical reasons as his client's defense for growing and
distributing marijuana, a controlled substance. McPhee found that Ginn, who
claims to suffer from chronic back pain, did not meet all of the
requirements to justify using that defense.

"With that gutted, there's basically no defense," Johnson said. "I think
the verdict was a foregone conclusion."

Ginn was released on her own recognizance pending sentencing after the
verdict was read Wednesday. But the state Department of Corrections
immediately arrested the Olympia resident on an unrelated failure to appear
charge that Johnson said is a mistake.

Ginn admitted growing marijuana for her own use and for a Seattle man with
multiple sclerosis, who has since died. She also said she provided
marijuana to Green Cross, a patient cooperative that is an advocate for
medical marijuana users. But Green Cross representatives denied Wednesday
that Ginn worked with the cooperative, which no longer gives marijuana to
pain sufferers.

Patients must have a terminal or debilitating medical condition to qualify
for medical marijuana, according to state law. Voters passed a medical
marijuana initiative in 1998 that led to the state law.

Medical marijuana advocates agree at least 10,000 patients legally use
marijuana for medical reasons in Washington, including several hundred in
Thurston County. Many suffer from AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal chord
injuries, glaucoma or cancer.

"Anybody who can usually grows their own," said Joanna Mckee, Green Cross
co-founder and director. "I go along with their doctors. If their doctors
say they need help, then I consider them a (medical marijuana) patient."

McPhee ruled that Ginn's chronic back pain was not properly documented by
her physician, who had been treating her for a short time and who had done
no medical testing.

"I didn't attempt in any way to overrule the doctor," McPhee said. "I took
the statute and its elements and determined whether Ms. Ginn could provide
sufficient evidence. ... I think I made the right decision under the law."

The jury's verdict Wednesday could make it harder for patients who need
marijuana to alleviate pain, advocates said.

"It sends chills down our spines," said Martin Martinez, director of the
Seattle-based Lifevine Foundation. "Many of these people have been living
in fear for many years, and this only reinforces that fear."

Patients legally using or growing the crop have nothing to fear, county
prosecutors said.

"There shouldn't be an effect on people who are growing and using within
the law," said Jack Johnson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

Heather Woodward covers Thurston County and the city of Tumwater for The
Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5435 or hwoodward@ olympia.gannett.com.

Source: The Olympian
Publish Date: January 15, 2004
Author: Heather Woodward
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