The self-appointed patriarch of a storefront church held a news conference
Monday to protest his arrest and the confiscation of close to 19 pounds of
marijuana and $10,000 in cash.

Eugene police arrested Daniel Carl Ernst on Thursday at his Almaden Street
office after hearing from neighbors that people were walking in and buying
marijuana, police spokeswoman Pam Alejandre said.

"It didn't look like a church to officers," she said.

Two undercover officers observed a dozen people go into and out of the 633
Almaden St. location Thursday, police said. Both officers said they later
entered and purchased small quantities of marijuana from Ernst.

Police obtained a search warrant, returned and found 3 1/2 pounds of dried
marijuana, 10 growing plants and $8,000 in cash. They later searched
Ernst's home and found an additional 14 pounds of dried marijuana,
packaging materials, $2,000 and small amounts of cocaine and hashish.

Ernst faces charges of delivery, manufacturing and possession of a
controlled substance.

At Monday's news conference, attended by activists and patients with
medical marijuana cards, several people said Ernst provides them with a
needed service. They said the state allows the use of marijuana as a way to
relieve pain or ease symptoms of other conditions, but makes it
prohibitively difficult to obtain the drug.

Ernst, a Saturday Market hemp-food vendor, said he informally organized The
Popular Society of the I Am That I Am Assembly three years ago with basic
tenets of not damaging other people or property, and striving for good
health. Use of marijuana is mandatory for those who want to participate.

Ernst admits having at least two previous marijuana-related convictions. He
said group members believe they're subject to the laws of nature rather
than society's laws.

"I don't think we as a church ran afoul of the law," Ernst said. "The
church is not beholden to the state. ... Our authority comes from within."

Ernst said he had filed paperwork with the state to become a marijuana
provider.

The Health Division keeps private both its list of providers and medical
marijuana cardholders. But if Ernst were a state-designated primary
caregiver, he could legally possess three mature plants, four immature
plants and 3 ounces of usable marijuana.

Police don't pursue those who comply with the state's medical marijuana
program, Alejandre said.

"If they have a legitimate reason granted by law, we're not interested,"
she said.

Ernst said he provides the medical marijuana and only asks for donations.
He said one of the officers offered him $40 and in return he turned over
between 3 1/2 and 4 grams of the drug.

The loss of access to Ernst's supply creates a problem for those who aren't
growing their own plants, said several people at the news conference.

"It puts patients in danger of being criminalized," said Michael Parker,
who said he uses marijuana to control a wasting condition known as cachexia.

Janet Mongillo, who said she suffers debilitating pain following a
construction accident that required surgery to her shoulder and knee, said
that her first crop of marijuana plants failed, and she turned to Ernst as
a source for the drug, rather than trying to get it "on the black market."

Ernst said that up until last October, the state included his phone number
on the list of patient networks that provide information about growing
marijuana and permitted some medical marijuana growers to donate their
excess to others who needed it. Ernst said he took his name off that list
after being inundated with phone calls.


Newshawk: Terry Liittschwager
Pubdate: Tue, 19 Jun 2001
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2001 The Register-Guard
Contact: rgletters@guardnet.com
Website: http://www.registerguard.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/362
Author: Susan Palmer, The Register-Guard
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)