College Student Opts To Let Jury Decide Marijuana Case
'Zac is willing to go down if he must, but it is going to be after a fight.'
~ Attorney David Sloan
A Texas college student has elected to take his chances with a jury following his arrest for possession of marijuana. Possession of under two ounces of marijuana in Texas is a Class B-misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
On July 13, Zachariah Walker, 25, of Denton, was stopped for an alleged traffic violation by the University of North Texas Police Department. During a subsequent search of his vehicle, officers claimed they found about two grams of marijuana. Walker was immediately arrested and booked into the Denton County Jail. He was later released after posting a $1,000.00 bond.
Walker elected to reject the state's October 10 plea bargain offer of 180 days in jail probated for 18 months, and a $600.00 fine; or 70 days in jail without a probationary term or fine.
Walker is a member of The University of North Texas student chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (UNT-NORML.) He has rejected any offers of probation and says "if anybody is going to send him to jail for possession of two grams of marijuana, it is going to be a jury of his peers."
According to his attorney, Fort Worth lawyer David Sloane, this is an ideal case to place in front of a Texas jury and call attention to the absurdity of Texas' marijuana statutes.
"The state's plea bargain offer was harsher in Zac's case than you would normally see because he has a prior 2007 conviction for possession of marijuana," Sloane, a member of NORML's National Legislative Committee and on the local DFW-NORML Board of Directors, told Toke of the Town. "In that case he was initially placed on deferred adjudication community supervision and failed a court ordered drug test four months into it, testing positive for THC.
"The court adjudicated his guilt in that instance and sentenced him to 60 days in jail," Sloane told us. "He was forced then to drop out of his classes. Walker will be facing the same judge in this case."
Speaking publicly about this case with Walker's permission, Sloane said "This guy has had enough. He has a 'been-there-done-that' attitude about probation. And even though a jury could send him to jail for up to 180 days, which Zac is prepared to do if it comes down to it, we don't believe a reasonable and prudent jury would even remotely consider anything close to the 70 days the state has offered as his punishment for possessing two grams of marijuana.
"And they might even find him not guilty," Sloane said. "Other than his occasional cannabis use this guy has never been accused of doing anything wrong or arguably illegal. He works, goes to school, and plays in a band on the weekends.
"He's never hurt anyone," Sloane said. "He's a genuinely nice guy who's had chaos heaped upon his life by a government that takes exception to his exercising his liberty to consume cannabis."Zac is willing to go down if he must, but it is going to be after a fight," Sloane said. "He feels his back is against the wall on this and the State of Texas is leaving him with no choice but to fight."
Sloane says he has staffed this case with other NORML attorneys in Texas and they have agreed to assist in Zac's trial pro bono. Attorney Jamie Spencer of Austin, Texas and Jamie Balagia of San Antonio, Texas have agreed to travel to Denton and help try this case.
While there is injustice concerning marijuana laws statewide, Sloane says these attorneys took a special interest in Zac's case because he is completely free of instances of extraneous bad conduct. This will truly be an opportunity to tests the attitudes of Texas jury where it comes only to possession of small quantities of marijuana.
"If the outcome is what we hope for and expect, we hope it will send a message to prosecutors everywhere to rethink their positions about jail terms for those accused of simple possession," Sloane said. "To my knowledge, having someone charged with possession of two grams of marijuana come into a jury trial with three of the state's top marijuana lawyers will be unprecedented."
With NORML involved, the state is going to have their work cut out for them. The case is expected to go to trial in early 2013 in Denton County Criminal Court Number 2.
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New York City: Still The Marijuana Arrest Capital Of The World
By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Low level marijuana arrests in New York City rose for the seventh straight year in 2011 to 50,680. The arrest total is the highest total on record since former pot smoker Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and it is the second highest total of pot arrests ever recorded in the history of the city (just 587 arrests behind the record holding year 2000, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani oversaw some 51,267 people arrested for marijuana violations).
Shockingly, the near-record high arrest total comes just months after New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called on officers to cease making marijuana misdemeanor arrests. Apparently, NYPD officers aren’t very good at listening to their commanding officer.
Of course, what is most troubling about these arrest figures is that under state law they largely shouldn’t be occurring at all. Since 1977, New York State law has categorized the possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less as a violation, not a misdemeanor crime. So then how are NYPD making so many misdemeanor pot arrests? By violating the spirit of the law, if not the law itself.
Rather than ticketing low level marijuana offenders, City police for over a decade have been taking advantage of a separate statute, NY State Penal Law 221.10, which makes it a criminal misdemeanor to possess pot if it is ‘open to public view.’ According to an investigation last year by New York City public radio station WNYC, it was determined that City cops routinely conduct warrantless ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches of civilians, find marijuana hidden on their persons, and then falsely charge them with possessing pot ‘open to public view.’
And what has been the result of these illegal ‘stop and frisks?’ A press advisory issued yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance lists the grim details.
– The NYPD has made more than 100,000 marijuana possession arrests for the last two years; nearly 150,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last three years; and more than 227,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last five years.
– New York City spent at least $150 million in the last two years and has spent at least $340 million in the last five years making marijuana possession arrests.
– In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million dollars.
– Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.
– In the last five years, the NYPD under Bloomberg has made more marijuana arrests (2007 to 2011 = 227,093) than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins, and Mayor Koch combined (1978 to 2001 = 226,861).
Commissioner Kelly’s 2011 memorandum explicitly directed officers to stop charging defendants with criminal misdemeanors in instances where the contraband ‘was disclosed to public view at an officer’s direction.’ Nevertheless, the record number of low level pot arrests appears to be continuing unabated. Most likely, it will take an act of law to stop this practice.
Fortunately, bipartisan legislation is pending in both the New York State Assembly and Senate to stop this disgusting, ongoing practice. Assembly Bill 7620 and Senate Bill 5187 reduce marijuana penalties involving cases where where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation. Passage of SB 5187 and AB 7620 will save taxpayer dollars, protect New York City’s citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests by clarifying the law and standardizing penalties for marijuana possession offenses.
If you reside in New York and want to end the City’s dubious distinction of being the ‘marijuana arrest capital of the world,’ then please contact your state elected officials today and urge them to support SB 5187 and AB 7620. You can do so via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Patrol finds marijuana-laced brownies at traffic stop
Does that math even make sense!? Get the hell outta here!- UA
TRUMBULL COUNTY, Oh. —
A man and woman are charged with several felonies after Ohio Highway Patrol troopers, during a traffic stop this week along Interstate 80 in Hubbard Twp., seized 20 grams of marijuana, 10 grams of hashish, 32 ounces of hash oil and four large marijuana-laced brownies all valued at nearly $63,000.
Troopers also seized drug paraphernalia and items associated with a marijuana grow operation following the stop on Wednesday. Hashish oil is a concentrated cannabinoid product with a high THC level. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a drop or two of this liquid on a cigarette is equal to a single marijuana "joint" or cigarette.
Troopers stopped a 2003 Honda Element, with Texas registration, for a marked lanes violation at about 12:36 a.m. The trooper approached the vehicle and observed a strong odor of raw marijuana. A probable cause search revealed the drugs, paraphernalia and marijuana cultivation items that included grow lights, fertilizer, exhaust systems, seeds and industrial filters.
Bryan Joseph Candito, 25, of Los Angeles, Calif., was charged with felony possession of liquid hashish, felony drug trafficking and possession of criminal tools; and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, cultivating of marijuana and possession of marijuana.
His passenger, Danae Kaitlin Bryan, 19, of Wyomissing, Pa., was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana, both misdemeanors.
Candito and Bryan are in the Trumbull County Jail. If convicted, Candito could be sentenced up to nine-and-a-half years in prison and fined $17,500, according to the patrol.
Police arrest man accused of distributing 36,000 pounds of marijuana
Jon M. Ferrell, 41, last known address 1630 Tower Court, was charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony punishable by a mandatory 10 years in prison.
Between January 2001 and Aug. 23, 2011, Ferrell was suspected of distributing marijuana, totaling 36,000 pounds, in Licking County and other counties with the help of other individuals, according to a statement of facts filed in Licking County Municipal Court.
Ferrell was arrested on June 23 after he was suspected of distributing marijuana and possessing marijuana, oxycodone and methadone. He was released after posting bond, which was set at $100,000, according to court records.
A trial related to that incident is set for Jan. 18.
The Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force investigated Ferrell over several years. Newark police arrested him Friday without incident, task force Lt. Paul Cortwright said.
A grand jury will review the case and additional charges of money laundering, weapons under disability and drug possession for possible indictment.
- Happenens again... Surprise Suprise...
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour dismissed the case against Dr. Manuel Aquino-Villaman following a hearing Friday. Samour said Aquino-Villaman's actions were lawful under the Colorado Constitution, according to a court summary of the hearing. He also said the charges should be dropped because officials failed to preserve key evidence. Aquino-Villaman had been charged with felony conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in addition to forgery and attempt to influence a public servant.
It is rare for a judge to dismiss charges before trial, but this is the second time it has happened for a medical-marijuana doctor this year in Arapahoe County. In May, a different judge dismissed the case against Dr. Toribio Robert Mestas, also saying that the doctor's actions were protected by the Colorado constitution.
The Arapahoe County district attorney's office declined to comment on the most recent dismissal, saying it has not yet decided whether to appeal.
Attorney Lauren Davis, who represented Aquino-Villaman, said both cases show a hostility toward medical marijuana by prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe County.
"Their bias against medical marijuana in Arapahoe and Douglas counties is an affront to the constitutional rights of patients and recommending physicians," Davis said.
Although the doctors — two of more than 1,000 physicians who have recommended medical marijuana in Colorado — are no longer facing criminal charges, neither is currently practicing medicine.
In March, Aquino-Villaman voluntarily surrendered his license in the midst of a state Medical Board investigation into a marijuana recommendation he wrote for a pregnant woman. Aquino-Villaman denied wrongdoing and said the woman never disclosed her pregnancy. But his attorney said Aquino-Villaman, now 71, could not afford to continue fighting for his license.
Last month, Mestas agreed to temporarily stop practicing while he is the subject of a Medical Board investigation. A public document about the investigation says only that a Medical Board inquiry panel "had significant concerns that (Mestas) provided substandard care to multiple patients."
In both Aquino-Villaman's and Mestas's criminal cases, undercover police officers posed as patients who complained of injuries or other aches in attempting to obtain a medical-marijuana recommendation. After brief exams, the doctors provided the recommendations.
Prosecutors argued that the exams were substandard and that the officers never complained of "severe pain" — the condition for which they were recommended marijuana. But the judges ruled the doctors' diagnoses were reasonable based on the officers' statements.
"The presumption is that doctors are entitled to rely on what patients tell them in the course of an examination," Davis said. "It's not the doctor's job to play policeman."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or email@example.com
Read more: Medical-marijuana case against Aurora doctor dismissed - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_19542409#ixzz1gUpCPTtT