Jury Acquits Medical Marijuana User of Felony Possession Charges

By Fred Morledge (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsA jury acquitted a 65-year-old medical marijuana user of possession and possession with intent to distribute in late May 2015. Prosecutors in the Clark County, Nevada case alleged that the defendant had more marijuana than was legally allowed, and they claimed that he intended to sell some or all of it. Police also seized cash and firearms from the defendant’s home. The prosecution unsuccessfully tried to tie these items to their intent-to-distribute claim. More than a month after the verdict, the defendant got the money back from the police, but he is reportedly still trying to get his guns back. Nevada allowed medical marijuana at the time of the defendant’s arrest and expanded its medical marijuana laws while his case was pending. The verdict could be an important milestone for the rights of medical marijuana users.

The defendant, according to news reports, suffered from scoliosis and developed arthritis over years of running a furniture repair business. He was injured in a car accident and reportedly became addicted to prescription painkillers afterwards, but he was able to beat the addiction with the help of medical marijuana. At the time of the defendant’s arrest in 2012, Nevada law permitted medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription but required licensed users to grow the plants themselves. The defendant had a prescription from his doctor stating that he could have up to 29 plants and between two and four pounds of finished marijuana products, substantially more than the amount allowed by law at the time.

Police officers, claiming they could see marijuana plants through the defendant’s fence, asked to look around his property in October 2012. Prosecutors later claimed that the police were responding to calls from neighbors. The defendant showed the officers the backyard, where they found multiple marijuana plants. After obtaining a warrant, they searched the house and claimed to have found 68 plants, weighing 28 pounds, as well as 24 pounds of finished product. They also seized more than $51,000 in cash and 26 firearms.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substances with intent to sell. Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 453.336(2)(a), 453.337(2)(a). See also Tex. Health & Safety Code §§ 481.120, 481.121. Each count could result in up to four years’ imprisonment. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 193.130(2)(d), (e).

The state’s case against the defendant was, essentially, that he had far more pot than he could possibly use himself, so the jury could infer intent to distribute or sell it. The defendant called several neighbors as witnesses, who testified that they had never seen anything to make them think he would sell drugs. He also stated that the cash included “antique currency,” other old bills, and money that he withdrew from his bank because of the recession. Many of the plants, he claimed, were so old that they had become moldy. He argued that the guns “were antique lever-action rifles, collectible pistol sets and historical muskets,” and therefore they were hardly suited for use in drug dealing.

The jury acquitted the defendant on both charges on May 29, 2015. Las Vegas police sent him a check for $51,772, the amount of cash seized from his house, in July, but they stated that further criminal checks were necessary before they would return the guns.

These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.

Michael J. Brown, a board-certified drug crimes attorney, has more than 20 years’ experience representing defendants in west Texas in state and federal criminal cases. Contact us online or at (432) 687-5157 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

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Defendant in Major Cybercrime Case Sentenced to Life in Prison for Drug Distribution, Hacking, and Money Laundering, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, June 22, 2015

Federal Authorities Charge Texas Retail Chain Owner in Connection with Synthetic Marijuana Investigation, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, June 17, 2015

Photo credit: By Fred Morledge (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.