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April 10, 2008

A Day in Court: Part 1 (Personal)

A while back, I described how an unwisely rejected
December 2007 subpoena ordering my appearance as witness in a pot trial in a nearby county had eventually turned into a waste of my time in February when the judge called in sick on a Monday morning. The trial was then rescheduled at a conference held a month later and yesterday’s procedure appeared on the docket  a full month after that. An additional detail, gleaned yesterday, was that a third (rebuttal) expert, had been added by the prosecution and was promptly injured in an auto accident; thus threatening further delay. Although I had experienced the frustration of an (incredibly unjust) federal pot trial first hand, it had been over quickly. This would be my first experience with the State of California’s far more leisurely routine for dealing with medical cannabis defendants charged with violations of its own medical use law. 

What I participated in yesterday was a shocking exercise that I suspect is being replicated at considerable expense and in relative obscurity in courtrooms all over California.

The defendants are two young men now in their late twenties. They have been out on bail, but can’t work at the skilled jobs they once had because of the charges against them. They have also been prevented from taking jobs outside the state for the same reason. Both have lost houses they once owned.  I’d provided both with pot recommendations on the same day in January 2004 and they’d been arrested together in June of that year with a trivial number of plants, resulting in the usual “intent to sell” additional (felony) charge. I have never been provided with the details of the case by their public defender, who seems to be functioning more as an agent of the judge than as their defense attorney, but apparently their trial has been in progress since 2006. (as I revisit this  item at odd intervals, I plan to supply additional details as they become known).

 I didn’t hear that many new facts yesterday either; when I arrived at the negotiated time of 10:00 AM, the en banc (no jury) trial was already underway and the other medical witness, a well known “pot doc” with a very large practice (he had “renewed” my recommendation for one of the defendants in 2006), was being questioned by an earnest, but woefully ignorant assistant DA, who seemed to think reading a modicum of DEA propaganda had turned him into an expert on cannabinoid therapeutics. The doctor, someone I know from personal experience to be nearly as ignorant of cannabis as the DA, proved competent enough at warding off bumbling questions, but his testimony could be summarized as defensive, and  not very enlightening about pot’s medical benefits, most of which seemed to have been supplied by satisfied users via questionnaire.  In other words, his standard evaluation, designed to comply with Medical Board of California guidelines, is more analogous to a tape recording than to a searching medical history.

When I took the stand sometime after 11AM, I was a more than a bit angry and flustered by both the ordeal of getting there on time, and the testimony I’d just heard; thus my first impatient answers quickly drew admonitions from the judge and persuaded the prosecutor that he would be spending the afternoon making mince meat of (yet another) fraudulent pot doc.

I can’t say it was planned; but a decent lunch and listening to the advice of cooler “heads” allowed me to turn the tables on the overconfident DA, a minor, but potentially important victory I hope soon to report

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at April 10, 2008 04:29 PM