What have your contributions to NORML done for marijuana legalization? One thing they do is pay they modest salaries of Paul Armentano, who researches and compiles the latest scientific research on the medical efficacy of cannabis, and Keith Stroup, whose extensive legal experience in marijuana law reform has built an incredible network of dedicated defense attorneys. Together these two men worked with the defense attorney of a medical marijuana patient with the unfortunate luck of being caught growing cannabis plants in Florida, the state with one of the strictest sets of cannabis laws (over 20 grams of possession is a felony!)
(Broward/Palm Beach NewTimes) Prosecutors dropped criminal charges today against a Palm Beach County man who had claimed a medicinal marijuana defense in a case that could have sent him to prison for five years for growing pot plants.
Jeffrey Kennedy, a 53-year-old Boynton Beach resident, had turned down a plea deal in the case in the hopes that his medicinal marijuana defense could set a legal precedent in Florida, where such cases are rare.
Problems began for Kennedy in 1999, when he tripped over a wire left in his yard by a cable guy. He fell and broke two disks in his back, requiring surgery that failed to fix his chronic pain. Doctors prescribed pain pills that gave him severe mood swings and failed to fix the pain he felt in his back, legs, and feet.
Kennedy hadn’t considered pot until about six years ago, when a stranger in a doctor’s office waiting room asked: “Ever try dope?”
“I told the guy, ‘Yeah, but I gave that up years ago. Does it work?’ He gave me a joint, and I went home that day and smoked half of it.” For the first time since the accident, the pain was gone. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is the most amazing thing.’”
It’s so sad that people who have had experience with cannabis are pressured to “give it up” and most think of it as a “youthful indiscretion” that mature adults don’t participate in. Cannabis should be the first thing pain patients are offered!
Kennedy began buying pot from dealers. But hoping to cut down on the costs of his newfound medicine, Kennedy said he decided about five years ago to start growing it. He ordered a book from Amazon.com on how to grow medical marijuana and set up a small farm out by his pool.
But on August 29, 2009, Kennedy came home in the afternoon to find his front door open. Fearing a burglar, he called the cops. While searching the home, they found his plants and arrested him on charges of trafficking and of cultivating 26 marijuana plants.
This is one of the under-reported aspects of marijuana prohibition – our susceptibility to crime. How many tokers don’t call 911 when they are threatened for fear of cops finding their marijuana grow?
Prosecutors later dropped the trafficking charges and offered Kennedy a deal: plead guilty and he’d walk away with just three years’ probation, which would require him to take monthly drug tests. If he smoked dope during that time, he’d likely go to prison.
Gee, all you have to do is remain in intractable pain and pee in a cup every month for three years. Why do these prosecutors want to punish this man any more than his health has punished him? Can they really believe that preventing this severely injured man from growing houseplants keeps the public safe?
Karen Goldstein, president of NORML of South Florida, hopes the case will encourage others to use a medicinal marijuana defense to fight criminal pot charges. “We hoped if this case had gone further that it would set a legal precedent in Florida,” Goldstein said. “But either way, we are so happy for Jeff.”Minardi says this isn’t the first time a medicinal marijuana case has won in Florida. Two cases out of the First District Court of Appeal from 1991 and 1998 established that defendants could argue a medicinal marijuana defense. But no cases have gone before the Florida Supreme Court, which would establish for good the defense statewide. “Hopefully,” Minardi said, “other people, if they have legitimate medical reasons, will be able to use this defense.”
And that’s the thing – people have to fight these charges and not take plea agreements. Even in Florida the public supports medical marijuana by 2-to-1 majorities. Demand jury trials. Call NORML, ASA, MPP, all of the reform groups; we’ve got expert witnesses and scientific studies you can use. When pressed, as these prosecutors were, our opponents have to fold because they’re holding a lousy hand. None of them want to stand before a jury full of voters and explain why they have to lock up the pain-wracked man for growing herbs for his personal relief.
Asked if he’s going to continue smoking weed, Kennedy replied: “I plead the Rick Scott. Rick Scott took the fifth 72 times in a court case. So I take the Rick Scott.”