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Woman's Aim To Use Pot Law Rebuffed 


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Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Author: Sharon Michael, The Olympian
Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 
Copyright: 2004 The Olympian

Olympia -- Monica Ginn says she grows marijuana for medical uses, but she wasn't allowed to use that defense at her trial on drug charges Tuesday.

Judge Thomas McPhee ruled a day earlier that Ginn does not meet all of the requirements to justify using that defense against charges of growing and distributing marijuana, a controlled substance. 

"They disarmed us yesterday," said Ginn, 53, as she sat in the courtroom late Tuesday, shortly after the jury began deliberations. 

The jury resumes deliberations today. 

The jury was instructed to decide whether Ginn of Olympia is guilty of manufacturing and possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it. 

Jurors also must decide whether Ginn qualifies for a more severe sentence because her growing operation was within 1,000 feet of a designated school bus stop. Ginn, who was the only defense witness, faces a five-year sentence if convicted. 

Ginn admitted growing marijuana for her own use, for a Seattle man with multiple sclerosis who has since died and for the use of members of Green Cross -- a patient cooperative that provides medical marijuana to AIDS patients. She denies making a profit on her crop, but said she was sometimes reimbursed for expenses. 

Her court-appointed attorney, Kevin Johnson, argued that the enhanced sentence is not called for because Ginn's operation was confined to her residence, did not involve anyone younger than 18 and was not for profit. 

Patients must have a terminal or debilitating medical condition to qualify for medical marijuana, according to state law, which grew out of Initiative 692, passed by voters in 1998. The judge ruled that Ginn's chronic back pain was not properly documented by her physician, who had been treating her for a short time and who had done no medical testing. 

McPhee warned Ginn's attorney before closing arguments Tuesday that he would be in contempt if he tried to use the medical marijuana defense in final arguments to the jury. 

Johnson said the medical marijuana issue was intertwined with the facts of the case. 

Ginn would not have called the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force on April 28 to request that they inspect her marijuana growing operation if she thought she was doing something illegal, Johnson said. 

"I wanted to notify the task force that I had a medical grow, and I wanted them to use whatever protocol they had to register it," she said. 

Ginn said she'd been told that King County's narcotics task force conducted inspections of medical marijuana growing operations. But Thurston County Detective Rod Ditrich told her he was unaware of any such protocol and, when he came to inspect her operation on April 29, he said, he told Ginn that he was treating the visit as a criminal investigation. 

Ditrich came back with a search warrant May 14 and confiscated 23 marijuana plants that were growing in an old green trailer next to the motor home where Ginn lives with her husband. 

"You've got to ask yourself, who would call in an airstrike on themselves, unless they thought they were doing the right thing," Johnson told the jury. 

Ginn pleaded guilty to the same charges April 1, 2002, and McPhee sentenced her to nine months of combined community service and jail time. She was on work release from that sentence the day Ditrich first came to inspect her growing operation. 

After she returned to jail on May 14, she remained there until Oct. 10, when she completed her sentence. 

Ginn agreed to the plea bargain in 2002 to protect her husband, she said. 

"He had nothing to do with this," she said. "They said, 'If you fight this, we'll prosecute your husband, too.' " 

McPhee substituted his judgment for the medical judgment of Ginn's personal physician, Ginn's supporters said. 

But the judge said his decision was based on the standards defined by the law. 

"My ruling is in no way a ruling that seeks to overturn the law," he said. 

If Ginn is convicted, she plans to appeal. McPhee said it will be interesting to see what a higher court has to say. 

"Initiatives are often loosely written," he said. 

Sidebar: What the law says: 

Qualifying patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses who, in the judgment of their physicians, would benefit from the medical use of marijuana shall not be found guilty of a crime under state law for their possession and limited use of marijuana. 

"Medical use" includes production, possession or administration for the exclusive benefit of a qualifying patient. 

Green Cross Patient Co-op

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