Newshawk: Rachel Morton
Pubdate: Fri, 04 Aug 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Address: Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-4712

Author: Mike Mccarthy, Holly J. Wolcott, Special To The Times

ARREST OF MEDICINAL POT USER RULED LEGAL

Court: Capping A Six-day Trial, The Jury Finds For Simi Valley Policemen
Who Apprehended A 64-year-old Man For Growing 14 Marijuana Plants.

SIMI VALLEY--In a setback to medicinal marijuana users, a jury ruled Thursday that police
acted legally when they arrested a local man--a qualified user under state law--with growing
14 pot plants in his backyard.

Following a six-day trial and two hours of deliberations, the Ventura County Superior Court
panel announced at about 5 p.m. it had found in favor of the Simi Valley Police Department
and officers John Adamczyk and Marvin Hodges.

The 12-member jury's unanimous decision disappointed 64-year-old Rex Dean Jones, a
retiree who sued the city for false arrest after he was picked up in 1998 for cultivating
marijuana.

Before his arrest, Jones had gone to authorities and told them he was growing marijuana to
treat symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, skin cancer, back pains and migraines. He
also showed authorities a doctor's note.

Prosecutors eventually dropped criminal charges against Jones and police returned the plants
confiscated from his yard, though they were dead. Jones was reimbursed for the loss by his
insurance company.

Martin R. Berman, the city's attorney, said the case was not about deciding how many plants
a medicinal user can grow--just whether it was a legal arrest.

"I believe this whole case was about them trying to make the law, and suing police officers is
not the way to make the law," Berman said outside court.

"The police are relieved because they don't like being sued, because they are just trying to
serve the public."

But Jones' attorney, J. David Nick, said, "The verdict was the result of an illegal, erroneous
ruling by the judge. We will appeal it to the highest court in the state, if necessary."

Nick's comments referred to a ruling Tuesday by Judge Kent Kellegrew, who refused to allow
a self-described marijuana expert to testify on how many marijuana plants should be legally
grown by medicinal users.

Proposition 215, the 1996 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, does not specify the
amount of plants a user can grow, but then-Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, who adamantly
opposed the proposition, issued strict recommendations on cultivation.

Based on a theory by Lungren that each plant can yield up to a pound of pot, Simi Valley
police work under guidelines that could hold a person in violation of the law if they are
growing more than two plants.

Nick had argued Lungren's reasoning was wrong and that one plant produces less than 5
ounces.

Regardless, Kellegrew told the jurors the only matter they needed to decide was whether the
arresting officers acted under the belief that Jones was violating state law--a task that jurors
said they were clear about.

"We felt bad for Mr. Jones. We felt bad for both parties but the attorney general's guidelines
are inconsistent and we believe the officers were following them based on what they thought
those guidelines were," said one female juror, who asked to not be identified.

The jury foreman, who also asked that his name not be used, said the panel did not believe its
job was to reconcile the vagueness of the law with the actions of the officers.

"The police believed they were acting under the law," the foreman said.

The decision came on the same day of another courtroom fight in a U.S. District Court in San
Francisco. In that case, attorneys for the federal government vowed to penalize doctors who
recommend pot to patients by revoking their licenses to dispense medication.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the federal government on behalf of several
doctors and their patients following a threat three years ago by federal drug policy officials to
punish doctors.
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