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Thread: Pot grower sentenced to 3 years

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    Pot grower sentenced to 3 years

    OLYMPIA -- A woman convicted of growing marijuana -- despite claims that she
    did so for medical reasons -- was sentenced Friday to three years in prison,
    although the judge permitted her to stay out on bond while she files an
    appeal.


    Judge Thomas McPhee, who quashed Monica Ginn's "medical defense" earlier this
    month in a Thurston County Superior Court trial, also ruled she could
    continue to use the drug for her medical condition as long as she didn't
    grow it.

    A jury convicted Ginn, 53, of Olympia of growing and possessing marijuana
    with intent to deliver after narcotics detectives arrested her in April
    2002. Her
    attorney, Kevin Johnson, said he thinks jurors might have sided differently
    if they'd been allowed to hear about his client's medical condition and a
    recommendation from her doctor.

    Ginn claims she suffers from chronic back pain and grew pot for her own
    treatment and to supply a King County man with multiple sclerosis who has
    since
    died. But the judge disqualified the evidence, ruling that she didn't have
    proper
    documentation from her doctor, who hadn't done the medical testing required
    by state law.

    McPhee thinks he applied the law correctly at her trial but said he realizes
    "there is a significant appellate issue," he said Friday.

    He extended some leeway to Ginn during the appeals process after requests
    from her attorneys.

    Ginn's attorneys hope her case will draw interest from an appellate court,
    possibly even the Washington State Supreme Court, where justices might
    reconsider her conviction and better clarify a voter-approved law in 1998 that
    legalized pot for terminal or debilitating medical conditions.

    Ginn's appellate attorney, Doug Hiatt, said the doctor had examined her,
    reviewed her medical history and taken other steps required by law. He's
    working
    to consolidate her appeal with two similar cases, he said.

    "It's about democracy. Voters wanted this to be between patients and doctors.
    It's about patients and doctors, and they need to be left alone," Hiatt said.
    "If a patient can't go to a doctor and then rely on that recommendation, then
    they're screwed -- the law doesn't mean anything."

    Thurston County prosecutors portray Ginn as someone who tried to take
    advantage of a law meant to help truly sick people. They point to her first
    conviction for the same offense and how she never cited her medical
    condition during
    that case.

    Ginn was arrested again while serving her first sentence on work release. She
    drew the attention of the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force by asking them
    to inspect her growing operation to ensure it complied with the law, which is
    another factor her attorneys say shows her innocence.

    Ginn automatically faced a two-year prison term because the plants were
    within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop. The judge tacked on another year and
    rejected prosecutors' requests for a four- to six-year term, which would
    have fallen
    under standard ranges for her crime.

    "This was not like a methamphetamine lab close to a school bus stop that
    might have injured others," McPhee said, drawing applause from about 40 of the
    defendant's friends, supporters and marijuana advocates who filled the
    courtroom.


    There are other cases where patients cite medical reasons and aren't charged
    because they followed the law, prosecutors said.

    In Ginn's first case, she was arrested with 153 plants and told police she
    originally had more.

    She also said, "I have a serious mental problem when I run out of weed. I'm
    an over-amped person, and I pretty much use it to keep my feet on the ground,"
    prosecutors said.

    She admitted to having smoked pot since the age of 13. In her second case,
    she had 23 plants, more than authorities typically see grown for medicinal
    reasons, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jack Jones said.

    "If she was a person who had cancer and five or six plants, nobody would have
    bothered her," Jones said.

    As Ginn left the courtroom Friday, her supporters collected money to help
    raise $1,000, or 10 percent of her $10,000 bond, which the judge imposed to
    ensure that she complies with court appearances while her case is on appeal.

    "It was wonderful to have that much energy and that much support," Ginn said.
    "I really have a belief that the appeals process will straighten this out."

    There was tension in the courtroom during the trial. But there also were
    moments of levity.

    The crowd laughed when McPhee accidentally referred to Ginn as the "patient"
    - -- a term at the center of debate in her case. Even the judge laughed.

    The crowd had mixed reactions to the judge's ruling.

    Allison Bigelow of the Seattle-based Lifeline Foundation said she thought the
    judge could have exercised more discretion.

    "It's kind of a split feeling. I'm happy he let her out today, and I feel
    like he indicated he's learned a lot," she said. "I don't think he liked being
    put in that position, either."


    Pubdate: Sat, 31 Jan 2004
    Source: Guardian, The (UK)
    Copyright: 2004 Guardian Newspapers Limited
    Contact: letters@guardian.co.uk
    Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian/
    Last edited by SmokeDog420; 02-02-2004 at 10:35 PM.