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US CA: Five Pounds Returned To Patient In Sonoma County


Tuesday 03 Jul 2001

Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jun 2001
Source: Press Democrat, The (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Press Democrat
Contact: Website:
Author: Clark Mason


Medical Marijuana Return Hailed

Court Order Over 5 Pounds Of Pot Seen As New Sign Of Tolerance By Sonoma
County Persecutors

Medical marijuana advocates said Friday that the court-ordered return of
five pounds of marijuana to a Healdsburg man signifies a new tolerance by
Sonoma County prosecutors and may also be the largest such return of pot in
the state.

The Sonoma County District Attorney's office did not oppose the return of
the marijuana after Richard Thiessen, 62, convinced them he had a doctor's
recommendation to use it.

Thiessen and his wife, Connie, were arrested in late April on suspicion of
marijuana cultivation as a result of 70 plants that were uprooted at their
Pine Flat Road home.

Charges were dropped against Connie Thiessen, 45. Her husband agreed to
plead no contest to misdemeanor possession of more than one ounce in
exchange for felony charges being dropped against him.

Defense attorney Steve Spiegelman said prosecutors agreed to the return of
three pounds, although the amount that was returned in Judge Elliot Daum's
courtroom this week was actually more - five pounds of buds and plant material.

Spiegelman and medical marijuana advocates said they are unaware of any
larger returns of medical marijuana since voters passed Proposition 215
four years ago, allowing use with a doctor's recommendation.

Ernest "Doc" Knapp, a spokesman for the Sonoma Alliance for Medical
Marijuana, said Sonoma County prosecutors have recently dropped a number of
cases they would have pursued in the past.

"Three months ago, law enforcement would have tried to nail him to the
wall," Knapp said of Thiessen's case. "It's a trend, absolutely a trend.
There's several other cases they would have prosecuted. They dropped them
after they came out with the guidelines."

Sonoma County prosecutors in May agreed to guidelines that allow patients
to have as many as 99 plants that produce three pounds. Most other
California counties that specify an allowable quantity of marijuana limit
it to smaller amounts.

The three-pound limit was proposed by the Sonoma Alliance and approved by
District Attorney Mike Mullins and the county law enforcement chiefs

Medical marijuana proponents said the guidelines were overdue and a sign
that authorities are open to possession of larger amounts following two
high-profile-prosecution's in Sonoma County that resulted in acquittals.

In one trial that ended in January, a Santa Rosa medical marijuana user was
found not guilty of cultivation in connection with more than 100 total
plants seized on two occasions from his home.

In a second case in April, two defendants were acquitted who were growing
899 plants in Petaluma - along with an additional 15 pounds they possessed
- - to supply a San Francisco marijuana buyers club.

Knapp said he is generally pleased with the new guidelines and believes
police and prosecutors are finally "moving toward the spirit and intent of
Proposition 215," which allowed for the use of medical cannabis by ill people.

Mullins could not be reached for comment Friday and the prosecutor who
handled the Thiessen case also was unavailable.

Spiegelman acknowledged that his client's first doctor gave "questionable
approval" for Thiessen to use marijuana for pain he suffers as a result of
operations to both shoulders and partial removal of a lung. He said once
another doctor provided a written recommendation, the District Attorney's
Office was very cooperative in allowing the pot to be returned.

"This would have been unheard of a few months ago, when he didn't have the
right approval and they still allowed him to get (the marijuana) back,"
Spiegelman said.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens




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