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Medical Marijuana Patients Seek Settlement

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HILO - Two medical marijuana patients suing police officers who seized their
marijuana are seeking a settlement with the county, their attorney said.

The County Council is expected to discuss in executive session during its
meeting Wednesday a settlement offer made by Puna resident Guy Shepherd,
attorney Jack Schweigert said. He said he and Shepherd made the good faith and
damage offer in August. He would not discuss details of the offer.

Shepherd in July 2002 filed a lawsuit against the county and the police officer
who rappelled into his yard and cut two of his marijuana plants earlier that
month. Police on a Green Harvest mission spotted plants growing outside
Shepherd's residence in the Leilani Estates subdivision. Shepherd is registered
with the state Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division to
use marijuana for chronic pain in his shoulder and left hip.

Schweigert said another one of his clients, Kona resident Kealoha "Kea" Wells
wants to make a settlement offer to the county, but he hasn't had time to make
a formal pitch to county attorneys.

John and Rhonda Robison, a couple who Schweigert is also representing, aren't
expected to reach a settlement with the county, however, he said.

"It's a thorny issue because you're talking about paying money for taking
somebody's marijuana," Schweigert said. "For Guy Shepherd, I'm optimistic. For
Kea Wells, I'm optimistic. For the Robisons, I think we're going to have to go
to trial.

"Maybe the county will turn around and get more realistic," Schweigert added.
"I don't think people on the Big Island are so against marijuana that they
can't understand the medical use of marijuana. I don't think a jury after they
hear the Robisons' case will feel sympathetic for police."

The Robisons and their roommate, Wells, were arrested July 8, 2002 after police
seized 20 marijuana plants and 1.5 ounces of dried marijuana from their Kalaoa
residence. Police released the Robisons and Wells "pending further
investigation" the same day, and criminal charges were never filed.

Police returned marijuana more than one month later, after reportedly
consulting with the prosecutors and the state Department of Public Safety.

Like Shepherd, the Robisons and Wells are registered with the state to possess
and grow marijuana medically. John Robison and Wells suffer from acute
lymphocytic leukemia, and Rhona Robison has Charco - Marie - Tooth (CMT)
muscular dystrophy.

State law allows registered medical marijuana patients to have four immature
plants and three mature plants, along with one ounce of usable marijuana per
mature plant.

A mature plant, according to the law, is flowered or has buds that are readily
observed by "unaided visual examination."

Police, initially after arresting the Robisons and Wells, maintained the three
medical marijuana cardholders had violated the law by not labeling which plants
belonged to which cardholder. The Department of Public Safety has since
recommended the state's 600 - plus patients label their plants.

The Robisons declined comment Monday. Neither Shepherd nor Wells could be
reached Monday.

Pubdate: Tue, 07 Oct 2003
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Contact: wht@aloha.net
Copyright: 2003 West Hawaii Today
Website: West Hawaii Today - West Hawaii Today