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Lawyers Debate Marijuana Law

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Kalispell, MT--District Judge Stewart Stadler heard arguments Wednesday in a case pitting a medical marijuana advocacy group against Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan.

The Montana Medical Growers Association sued Corrigan March 23 on behalf of two men charged with felonies after a February traffic stop that yielded three pounds of marijuana.

Attorneys for the two men – Lief Erickson and Robin Ruiz – say they were acting within the confines of the Medical Marijuana Act as it existed at the time. They were transporting the marijuana to Great Falls, according to law enforcement. Ruiz is a registered caregiver and Erickson a patient.

Deputy County Attorney Tara Fugina said Wednesday that the law simply does not allow caregiver-to-caregiver transactions such as the one that led to the criminal charges.

"It means what it says and it says what it means," Fugina said of the Medical Marijuana Act. "Nothing more and nothing less."

Attorney Tim Baldwin, who filed the lawsuit and is representing Ruiz in his criminal case, said language in the act should be analyzed further. He said caregivers not only are allowed to transfer marijuana among themselves but also are legally required to do so.

"A shirking of that responsibility could mean liability for the caregiver," Baldwin said.

Erickson's attorney Chris Lindsey also said that caregivers have a duty to provide their patients with medicinal marijuana.

"Caregivers both have a duty to their patients and have been given the ability to acquire marijuana," Lindsey said. "That has to have meaning."

Stadler referred to an April decision by District Judge John Larson, who ruled that caregiver-to-caregiver transactions are not legal under the Medical Marijuana Act. That ruling was made in response to a lawsuit filed in Missoula District Court by Lindsey on behalf of caregiver Kevin Kerr.

"It is also being appealed to the Supreme Court," Lindsey replied.

Baldwin said the County Attorney's Office is being disingenuous in its arguments and that state law anticipates caregiver-to-caregiver transfers.

Fugina said Baldwin's assertions are not supported by facts.

"The court should not be inserting what's not there," she said.

The hearing was held in response by a request for summary judgment by the County Attorney's Office. Stadler didn't indicate when he would rule on the matter.

Erickson and Ruiz both have pleaded innocent to criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute. District Judge David Ortley, who is presiding over the criminal cases, said Wednesday that he would await Stadler's ruling before deciding on a number of motions filed in the criminal cases.

Erickson and Ruiz were arrested by Flathead County Sheriff's Office and Northwest Drug Task Force deputies after their vehicle was stopped on U.S. 2 near Lake Five Road on Feb. 3.

According to court documents, a search of their vehicle resulted in the discovery of three pounds of marijuana, 300 capsules believed to contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana) and five vials of suspected THC honey.

Lindsey, who spoke via a cellphone during an omnibus hearing for Erickson that preceded the hearing on the lawsuit, said his client's due process rights were violated. He said the Medical Marijuana Act provides a presumption of innocence that was not adhered to by law enforcement or prosecutors.

Deputy County Attorney Travis Ahner said the amount of marijuana is a factor.

"The presumption of medicinal use has limitations," he said. "Among them that the amount doesn't exceed what's permitted."

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News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: dailyinterlake.com
Author: Eric Schwartz
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Copyright: Daily Inter Lake
Website: Lawyers debate marijuana law
 
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