High courts

Just as the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing last week to hear a case defining whether marijuana can legally be used as medicine (“Stirring the Pot,” SN&R, March 22), the California Supreme Court agreed to hear its first case addressing the issue.

The case originated in 1997—the year after California voters approved Proposition 215, legalizing medical uses of marijuana—when Tuolumne County resident Myron Mower was convicted of cultivation and possession of marijuana.

In July of that year, while Mower was in the hospital, local authorities searched his home and discovered 31 marijuana plants. In implementing Prop. 215, the county had set an allowable limit of three plants. Since he exceeded this limit, Mower was charged with illegal cultivation and possession.

According to court records, Mower is a seriously ill diabetic and has used marijuana to control his nausea and stimulate his appetite for more than 20 years. He is also legally blind due to complications from the diabetes, and has other severe health problems.

At his three-day jury trial, Mower unsuccessfully argued that the plants found in his home were for personal medical use and therefore legal under Prop. 215. The appellate court upheld Mower’s conviction and disagreed with his contention that the measure offered him immunity from prosecution.

Now the state Supreme Court will decide whether Prop. 215 shields medical marijuana users from prosecution for cultivation and possession of marijuana. The ruling is not expected to address the issue of the allowable number of plants or quantity of marijuana a patient may possess, another unresolved question resulting from ambiguities in the law.

However, the matter may be moot if the U.S. Supreme Court decides that the federal Controlled Substances Act trumps Prop. 215, a question currently before that court. A decision is expected by the end of June.

In other cannabis-related news, longtime medical marijuana advocate and 1998 gubernatorial candidate Dennis Peron settled his five-year criminal case with the California Department of Justice.

Peron and five other cannabis activists were arrested in 1996 and charged with narcotics possession and transportation stemming from their medical marijuana activities. The arrests came just months before the Prop. 215 vote, and Peron maintained that the charges were retaliation for his active support of the measure. Then-Attorney General Dan Lungren was a vocal opponent of the initiative.

Peron pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy, and received credit for time served under a plea bargain agreement. The trial judge then dismissed the conviction. Of the other defendants, two are now dead and the remaining three pleaded guilty to a felony, “conspiracy to create a nuisance” and were placed on probation for two years.