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Old 10-30-2008, 06:35 AM
 
305 posts, read 822,879 times
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Court sides with Conrad man in marijuana case
By KATIE OYAN - Associated Press - 10/30/08
The director of a statewide medical marijuana advocacy group is calling a Wednesday decision by the Montana Supreme Court a “big victory” for the state’s patients and voters.
In a 6-1 ruling, the high court said District Judge Laurie McKinnon overstepped her authority with two sentencing conditions she placed on Timothy Nelson of Conrad.
Nelson was charged in May 2006 after authorities searched his house and found evidence of a marijuana growing operation. He suffers from a degenerative disc disorder and was later accepted into Montana’s medical marijuana program.
In February 2007, Nelson pleaded no contest under a plea agreement to criminal possession or manufacture of dangerous drugs.
During sentencing, McKinnon expressed concerns about Nelson’s marijuana use and the fact that he was raising two children. She eventually gave him a three-year deferred sentence subject to 20 conditions.
Nelson filed an appeal challenging two of those conditions: an order than he not possess marijuana except in prescription pill form, and an order that he comply with all state and federal laws. He was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Montana and the advocacy and support group Patients and Families United.
Nelson argued that McKinnon ignored the intent of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act and treated his medical marijuana use like it was illegal. He said the sentencing conditions unduly restricted his use of marijuana and needlessly required him to suffer physical pain.
The Medical Marijuana Act, passed by voters in November 2004, allows patients to use marijuana if they suffer from diseases like cancer, glaucoma and HIV, or if they have chronic pain.
Nelson also argued McKinnon exceeded her authority in requiring him to obey all federal laws, since federal law prohibits marijuana possession and allows no exceptions for medical marijuana use.
Attorneys for the state said Nelson didn’t become a participant in Montana’s medical marijuana program until after his arrest, and his history suggested he may be addicted to the drug. They said Nelson admitted he had used marijuana illegally for years and sought protection under the Medical Marijuana Act only “after he got caught.”
The Supreme Court sided with Nelson, reversing the two sentencing conditions and remanding the case for further proceedings. Justice Jim Rice dissented.
The high court said state law allows qualifying patients to possess up to six marijuana plants and one ounce of “usable” marijuana.
“In limiting Nelson to the ingestion of marijuana in pill form, and requiring him to have a physician’s prescription to do so, the District Court ignored the clear intent of the voters of Montana that a qualifying patient with a valid registry identification card be lawfully entitled to grow and consume marijuana in legal amounts,” the Supreme Court said.
Tom Daubert of Helena, director of Patients and Families United, said the ruling was the high court’s first in a medical marijuana case.
“We’re very pleased,” Daubert said. “We think this decision is a big victory not only for the state’s suffering patients, but also for voters, because it affirms the voters’ decision.”
The ruling also affirms three fundamental points, Daubert said.
The first is that for participants in Montana’s medical marijuana program, “marijuana is a legal medicine that should be treated no differently than ordinary prescription drugs,” he said. The second is that the prescription-pill form of marijuana is not the same as regular marijuana.
And the third important point the ruling makes “is that Montana has every right, as do other states, to adopt its own policy on this issue,” Daubert said.
Betsy Griffing, legal director for the Montana ACLU, also lauded the ruling, saying it recognizes the “full force and effect of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act.”
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Old 10-31-2008, 08:38 PM
 
Location: In The Outland
6,023 posts, read 13,039,746 times
Reputation: 3535
Does this ruling mean that caregivers have to declare their proceeds from selling the product to the clients on their state income tax returns ? What about the clients, can they deduct the amount they spend on their medicine on their tax returns ? I haven't read the ruling.
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