Marijuana Decriminalization: Efforts To Relax Pot Rules Gaining Momentum In U.S.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Catharine Leach is married and has two boys, age 2 and 8. She has a good job with a federal contractor and smokes pot most every day.
While she worries that her public support for marijuana decriminalization and legalization could cost her a job or bring the police to her door, the 30-year-old Warwick resident said she was tired of feeling like a criminal for using a drug that she said is far less harmful than the glass or wine or can of beer enjoyed by so many others after a long day's work. Like others around the nation working to relax penalties for possession of pot, she decided to stop hiding and speak out.
"I'm done being afraid," she said. "People in this country are finally coming around and seeing that putting someone in jail for this doesn't make sense. It's just a changing of the time."
Once consigned to the political fringe, marijuana policy is appearing on legislative agendas around the country thanks to an energized base of supporters and an increasingly open-minded public. Lawmakers from Rhode Island to Colorado are mulling medical marijuana programs, pot dispensaries, decriminalization and even legalization. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now authorize medical marijuana and 14, including neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, have rolled back criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of pot.
Rhode Island is poised to become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana possession. The state's General Assembly passed legislation last week that would eliminate the threat of big fines or even jail time for the possession of an ounce or less of pot. Instead, adults caught with small amounts of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine. Police would confiscate the marijuana, but the incident would not appear on a person's criminal record.
Minors caught with pot would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said he is inclined to sign the legislation.
One of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. John Edwards of Tiverton, has introduced similar proposals in past years but the idea always sputtered in committee. Each year, though, he got more co-sponsors, and the bill passed the House this year 50-24. The state Senate passed it 28-6.
Some supporters of decriminalization say they'd like to go even further.
"America's 50-year war on drugs has been an abysmal failure," said Rep. John Savage, a retired school principal from East Providence. "Marijuana in this country should be legalized. It should be sold and taxed."
Opponents warned of dire consequences to the new policy.
"What kind of message are we sending to our youth? We are more worried about soda – for health reasons – than we are about marijuana," said one opponent, Rhode Island state Rep. John Carnevale a Democrat from Providence.
A survey by Rasmussen last month found that 56 percent of respondents favored legalizing and regulating marijuana. A national Gallup poll last year showed support for legalizing pot had reached 50 percent, up from 46 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in the mid-'90s.
Medical marijuana helped bring marijuana policy into the mainstream back in 1996, when California became the first state to authorize the use of cannabis for medicinal use. Other states followed suit.
"It's now politically viable to talk about these things," said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports the reduction or elimination of penalties for medical and recreational pot use. "The public understands that there are substances that are far more harmful – alcohol, tobacco – that we regulate. People are realizing just how much money is being wasted on prohibition."
Colorado and Washington state will hold fall referendums on legalizing marijuana. A ballot question on legalization failed in California in 2010.
This month, Connecticut's governor signed legislation to allow medical marijuana there. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting the penalty for public possession of small amounts of pot.
Liberal state policies on marijuana have run into conflict with federal prohibition. Federal authorities have shut down more than 40 dispensaries this year in Colorado, even though they complied with state and local law. In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee blocked three dispensaries from opening last year after the state's top federal prosecutor warned they could be prosecuted. Chafee and lawmakers then rewrote the dispensary law to restrict the amount of marijuana dispensaries may have on hand.
Robert DuPont, who served as the nation's drug czar under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, said Americans should be wary of a slippery slope to legalization. While marijuana may not cause the life-threatening problems associated with heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, it's far from harmless.
"It is a major drug of abuse," he said. "People ask me what the most dangerous drug is, and I say marijuana. Other drugs have serious consequences that are easy to recognize. Marijuana saps people's motivation, their direction. It's a drug that makes people stupid and lazy. That's in a way more dangerous."
The magazine could be called Reefer Relief
Somewhere between “Reefer Madness” and Cheech and Chong, there is actual information to be had about what marijuana does to, and for, the people who use it. Few natural substances have inspired so much distortion and misinformation, so much obscene waste of time, money and resources. And now, with Rhode Island caught in a schizophrenic breakdown over marijuana — passing a law to legalize its medical use, then having the law weakened by the governor’s refusal to license compassion centers — there is a clear need to clear the smoke from the room and consider what this leaf can actually mean to people. So pick up a copy of Releaf at a small business near you. It is a magazine published in Providence, staffed by patients who use medical marijuana and filled with news of how marijuana does and doesn’t work in this strange world where a vital source of relief is only a little bit legal. “We felt the need for some form of presence — of what is going on,” said Carlos Reyes, a co-founder of the magazine. Reyes, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, said he was moved to do something, in part, by a story told by a friend of a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis. The woman’s boss suggested she try marijuana. She found that it relaxed her, helped her deal with the pain of MS. When she told her doctor, he told her to stop using it or he would stop being her doctor. It does get that crazy. People are suffering, they find relief and the doctor says forget about it. The monthly magazine, which marks its first anniversary in December, looks at the crazy stuff, the ugly stuff and day-today reality. In the October issue is a story on Robert Platshorn, a martyr to some, who served almost 30 years in prison for marijuana smuggling in a case that became a stunning example of how far the war on drugs will go to keep the war on drugs going. There is also a look at fibromyalgia, the chronic pain disorder, and how some sufferers have found the pain is eased by marijuana. “We want to present cannabis as approachable and understandable and everyone can live with it,” said Reyes. “And it doesn’t kill.” Marijuana will always be with us, hopefully in a way that allows its healthy application without the legal bob-and-weave. So we need information, instead of SWAT teams and legal briefs. We need to talk about it in a way that recognizes its healing promise and its twisted history. Releaf helps. It is about marijuana in often painful detail. Even within that small population in Rhode Island where marijuana is legally sold and administered, there are strange things going on that seldom make it into the public debate. Reyes said that some caregivers under the medical-marijuana law exploit their privilege to grow it. They give patients less than they need, he said, then sell the rest illegally at a very lucrative price. “It happens a lot,” said Reyes. It happens, of course, because as long as marijuana remains illegal, the illegal traffic will thrive. And people will get hurt. Releaf is available for free at the businesses that advertise in it. You might know of one. Or you can go to releaf.co.
Peter Fontana and his fianceé Laura Matteson were like any other couple preparing for their wedding. The ceremony was planned, reception booked and final dress and tux fittings scheduled. All that was left was the rehearsal and final countdown to their big day.
Devastating news from Fontana’s doctor, however, forced the couple to put their fall wedding on hold.
The Johnston resident, who lived in Cranston most of his life, is not a fan of doctors, but constant high fevers forced him to give in and visit his physician. A blood test showed he had a low platelet count and further tests revealed shocking news–he had been living with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia for three years. AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and it’s the most common type of acute Leukemia in adults.
Days later, Fontana was admitted to the Bone Marrow unit at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, the only one in the state, and given aggressive chemotherapy treatment. He has been hospitalized since August 18 and will undergo another round of treatment this week.
The otherwise perfectly healthy small business owner was devastated by the news and severity of his cancer and so were his loved ones.
“I felt frozen, nervous and sick,” Matteson said. “I remembered trying to stay strong and positive so Pete wouldn’t see me worried.”
“Honestly, it’s awful and the first thing I thought of was why him,” said Tricia Flori, Fontana’s younger sister. “I wanted it to be me instead. He had so much to look forward to in the next few months and now it’s all on the backburner.”
Her brother needs a bone marrow transplant. She and her sister Christina have been tested, but neither are a match. Doctors have found two possible matches from the bone marrow bank. If a match is found, Fontana will have a transplant at the end of October.
Flori said she and the rest of her family are doing what they can to be strong and are collaborating with friends and relatives to help him through not only the emotional, but financial hardship that will come from him not being strong enough to work. An entrepreneur, Fontana started two small businesses, Pro Building Inc. and Rhode Island Inflatables.
A mother of two, Flori said she is putting her own feelings aside and doing what she needs to do for her brother and Matteson. She and family friends have organized a yard sale. All sales and any donations will go to helping the family. The yard sale is being held Saturday, Sept. 17 8 a.m. at 59 Nelson Rd. in Cranston (off Comstock Parkway).
“She’s my best friend and he’s my brother and I feel like I have to be strong and support them,” Flori said.
Close friend and Cranston school teacher Melissa Polofsky has organized a dress down day for the month of September. Each month the staff at Hope Highlands contribute to a cause in order to dress down one day each week. Polofsky, who has been a close family friend of the Fontanas, has encouraged her colleagues to dress down for Fontana.
Fontana has good days and bad. There are days when he is weak and can barely pick up the phone, she said.
“We are speaking to him in a positive way,” Flori added. “He will get better. It will take time. It takes strength and we tell him to keep looking forward to the day he will marry Laura.”
Fontana has another special lady in his life. Her name is Lina and she’s four. He has not been able to see his littler girl because of his weakened immune system. Not seeing his little girl has been a challenge to Fontana who describes Lina as his life.
“He and Laura explained to her that daddy was sick but, was with doctors and they would be there to help him,” Flori said. “They explained the mask he had to wear and scrubs and they told her she needed to wash her hands all of the time before being near daddy.
The two have taken to the Internet to stay connected through Skype. Using Skype to connect has helped to create some normalcy for Fontana, but some days he’s too tired or sick from the treatment to see or talk to anyone.
Matteson is determined to bring her fiance home.
“I look at the love of my life in pain everyday and all I can keep telling him is I will make sure that we will do whatever it takes to get him health and strong again."
Drug-Bashing Republican Lawmaker Charged For Marijuana
In the latest fine example of Republican high-pocrisy when it comes to cannabis, a high-ranking GOP legislator in Rhode Island is squirming after being charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, possession of marijuana, and possession of "drug paraphernalia."
An embarrassing pot bust would be bad enough for any politician, but this guy -- Rep. Robert Watson -- is a real piece of work who is remembered for making offensive anti-drug, anti-gay and anti-immigrant remarks, reports Kase Wickman at The Raw Story.
In February, Watson said the Rhode Island Legislature had their priorities right -- "if you are a Guatemalan gay man who likes to gamble and smokes marijuana."
Rather than just apologize and move on, Watson -- while a guest on a radio show soon after that misstep, and in response to the understandable outcry over his comments -- said, "I reject the suggestion that it's insulting."
Watson continued to refuse to say he was sorry. "I apologize when appropriate and/or necessary," Watson told the Providence Journal in February. "I identify this situation as representing neither circumstance."
The East Greenwich, R.I., politician recently pooh-poohed debate over the decriminalization of marijuana as not worthy of legislators' time, reports The Associated Press.
Watson was pulled over at a police checkpoint on Friday, according to East Haven police. Officers noted a "strong odor of marijuana" coming from the nervous Republican's car, and charged him with possession and driving under the influence after a search.
The loud-mouthed, bigoted legislator seems to have suddenly gotten a lot quieter.
But his office finally released a statement on Monday in which he denied he was driving under the influence. He claimed he was in Connecticut to help a friend move, and was driving home from dinner when he was stopped.
"Trace evidence of marijuana was discovered and I was charged with operating under the influence, a charge I vehemently deny," Watson said in a prepared statement.
Watson won't face immediate political consequences for his little adventure. Rhode Island's Ethic's Commission won't investigate allegations that fall outside a lawmaker's public duties. So it looks like this two-faced THC-hound will continue having a bully pulpit to badmouth marijuana despite the fact that he enjoys hit himself.
He's been released after signing a $500 bond and promising to appear in court on May 11.
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — Last month, the Department of Health gave the go-ahead for the opening of three medical marijuana dispensaries that were authorized in large part to give patients a safer and more accessible way to obtain what the federal government still classifies as an illegal substance.
But the opening of the dispensaries may not necessarily make it easier for patients to get marijuana. Thanks to a law enacted by the General Assembly in the waning days of last year’s session, most information about the medical-marijuana program, including the names of doctors who certify patients for marijuana-use cards, is now secret.
As a result, patients who want to obtain medical-marijuana are depending on word of mouth to find a doctor in Rhode Island who’s willing to certify their need.
“They’re not going to be able to find them in the Yellow Pages, that’s for sure,” says Steven R. DeToy, spokesman for the Rhode Island Medical Society.
There are currently 465 doctors who have certified 3,351 patients for the five-year-old medical-marijuana program but, since the Health Department and the Medical Society are prohibited from making referrals, they’re telling patients to go to the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC), the support group for medical-marijuana patients.
But RIPAC doesn’t give out doctors’ names to people who come to the group.
“That would hurt us. Most doctors don’t want to be identified as marijuana docs,” says the organization’s executive director, Joanne Leppanen. “So it’s a very serious problem right now. We can’t give out a list of doctors without their permission.”
If a patient comes looking for a referral, “we tell them to ‘Go to the doctors who’ve managed your pain in the past.’ But many doctors are not comfortable with cannabis.”
The 2010 change in the law that now makes it illegal — punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a $1,000 fine — for any government official to disclose marijuana doctors’ names was supported by some of the state’s most passionate open-government advocates: Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence; Rep. Edith Ajello, D-Providence; and the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The original intent of the law [that took effect in 2006] was that physicians would receive the same degree of confidentiality as they would when prescribing any other kind of medicine for any other type of patients,” Perry explained in a recent interview.
But not every lawyer who read the law felt the confidentiality provisions were all that clear.
Early last spring, when a reporter for The Providence Journal asked the Health Department for the names of all physicians who’d certified patients for medical marijuana — and the number of patients each had certified — Bruce McIntyre, a veteran legal counsel for the department, decided that while the law clearly made patient and caregiver names confidential, it did not do the same for names of the doctors. So last March, the department released the names of the 355 doctors who’d at that point signed certifications. The reporter began calling some of the doctors. A front-page story was published. Listed in the story were the names of 21 doctors who’d certified at least 10 of their patients.
An uproar ensued. Doctors started calling the Medical Society, the Health Department and Perry to complain. The ACLU, the Medical Society, the Rhode Island State Nurses Association and RIPAC wrote a joint letter to Dr. David Gifford, then-director of the Health Department, excoriating the department’s release of the doctors’ names.
“Our organizations are writing to express our deep distress and concern over your department’s recent significant breach of confidentiality under the state’s medical-marijuana law,” the letter began. “There can be little question about the impropriety of the department’s actions … it is indisputable that the list of names the department released came directly from the ‘supporting information submitted by qualified patients,’ information that is designated ‘confidential’ in no uncertain terms.”
But in reply, McIntyre said the “protected list” only applied to patients and their caregivers. If there was an interest in protecting the confidentiality of physicians as well, the law needed to be amended and the Health Department would support the change, he wrote.
An amendment to the law was quickly drafted and in rapid-fire fashion passed both chambers and became law last June — without then-Gov. Donald Carcieri’s signature. It makes clear that any information about specific medical-marijuana patients, their doctors and caregivers were exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records act.
“It had a really chilling effect,” Perry said of publication of the physicians’ names.
One doctor whose name was published because he’d certified 100 patients isn’t approving anyone for the program anymore. He’s put up a large sign in his office announcing this to his patients.
Annemarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said some doctors were upset at the publication of their names “because they do not want to be viewed as ‘pot docs.’ I think some are also aware that there are some very opposing opinions about the medical-marijuana program. I think if you look at the entire patient population, there are probably some patients in your practice opposed to medical marijuana.” Doctors, Beardsworth said, don’t want to perhaps “risk losing those patients” who are opposed to medical marijuana.
Dr. Todd E. Handel, a Pawtucket physiatrist who specializes in pain intervention, says he’s been practicing for 12 years and that there is a stigma attached to certifying patients for medical marijuana. About 5 percent of the patients he sees ask him to approve them for the program but he says he signs off on only about 2 percent. He says he’s not “a pot doc” but a real doctor, and real doctors “don’t want to have a practice that involves just writing for medical marijuana. All of us fear we’re going to have the type of practice you see on TV where every 15 minutes, patients are coming in just to have a medical-marijuana certificate.”
Handel said there are other reasons physicians were upset over the publication of their names: fear that the federal government would take action against their licenses or their medical-malpractice insurance would be canceled if an insurer found out they were certifying patients to use marijuana. “It’s difficult to assess patient risk” for medical-marijuana because unlike other controlled substances, you don’t prescribe dosage or have any way of monitoring patient use or misuse of the drug, Handel said in an interview. He says he’s made it clear to RIPAC that he doesn’t want any referrals.
Rhode Island is among several states that make the doctors’ names secret. But in California, doctors who approve patients for medical marijuana are falling over each other advertising their services –– in storefronts, fliers and over the Internet.
Condition Number Pct.
Agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease 3 0%
Seizures, including epilepsy 31 1%
AIDS or treatment 37 1%
Glaucoma or treatment 39 1%
Positive status for HIV or treatment 97 2%
Cachexia or wasting syndrome 112 3%
Hepatitis C or treatment 210 5%
Cancer or treatment 218 5%
Severe nausea 262 7%
Severe and persistent muscle spasms 720 18%
Severe, debilitating, chronic pain 902 22%
Other 1,392 35%
Total conditions cited 4,023 100%
Note: Some conditions overlap
Source: RI Department of Health as of 3/18/2011
01:00 AM EST on Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By Philip Marcelo
Journal State House Bureau
PROVIDENCE –– A Providence lawmaker has again submitted a bill that would phase out the practice of using individually licensed suppliers, known as caregivers, to grow or keep marijuana for patients, as well as close what he says are significant loopholes in the state’s medical-marijuana laws.
The proposal, which state Rep. John M. Carnevale, D-Providence, submitted on Tuesday, would require that, effective Jan. 1, 2013, the growing and selling of medical marijuana would be allowed only in state-sanctioned dispensaries known as compassion centers.
The state Department of Health is in the process of selecting the group that will open the state’s first such center.
Under the current medical-marijuana law, a patient legally allowed to use marijuana can either grow the plant at home (up to a maximum of 12 mature plants) or he or she can designate a “caregiver,” an individual who is licensed to grow marijuana in larger quantities (up to 24 mature marijuana plants). A caregiver can only provide marijuana for up to five registered medical-marijuana patients.
Carnevale says his bill, which he first submitted last year, would address the abuse and crime that have plagued communities since the enactment of the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act in 2006.
Last year, Carnevale, along with fellow retired Providence police officer and former state Rep. Joseph Almeida, submitted the bill close on the heels of a Providence Journal story about Orlando Martino, a Providence man with a record of drug arrests who, at the time, was seeking to have drug-possession charges dismissed based on his approval, months after his arrest, for a medical-marijuana card.
Martino pleaded no contest in June 2010 to a single felony count of possession of marijuana and was sentenced to two years, of which 3 months would be served in the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, and 21 months suspended.
Carnevale argues that in the months since, medical-marijuana-related crimes — from armed break-ins to house fires related to growing marijuana indoors to caregivers and patients illegally growing and selling marijuana for profit — have increased.
“We can’t control what happens in individual homes,” he said Monday. “What it has created is a dangerous situation for the law-abiding citizens in our neighborhoods.”
Like last year’s version, Carnevale’s bill would also amend the law between now and when the caregivers would be eliminated from the medical-marijuana pipeline.
One such proposal would bar the state from registering anyone with a capital offense or felony drug conviction as a caregiver. Another would repeal the law that currently allows registered patients and caregivers to share marijuana with other registered patients or caregivers, as long as no money is exchanged.
“If we’re treating it like a medicine, why are we letting people swap it back and forth? Do we let patients swap Vicodin?” he said.
Other significant changes include having the state police, rather than the Health Department, conduct regular inspections and records reviews at compassion centers. The bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, would also allow for a majority, rather than all, of the principal officers and board members of a compassion center to be Rhode Island residents.
“We are a ministry helping sick people,” said Johansson in a phone interview. “We were helping sick people. We were helping people in need in the community.”
The federal authorities have a different take on Johansson. They believe that he is a drug dealer who kept a shotgun in his church where he was allegedly growing more than 180 marijuana plants.
Last month, federal prosecutors charged Johansson and his girlfriend, Lydia Brindamour, with conspiring to manufacture more than 100 marijuana plants and manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants. If convicted of the charges, Johansson and Brindamour face from 5 to 40 years in prison and $2 million in fines.
The criminal charges could put a serious damper in Johansson’s plans to open one of the state’s first marijuana dispensaries, also known as compassion centers. His proposal is one of 18 that the Health Department has accepted for review. At a public hearing this week, West Warwick’s legal counsel, Albert DiFiore, was highly critical of Johansson and his proposal. He said that it would be a “fiasco” for the state to grant a license to a man who is facing significant jail time and has yet to specify where he might run his marijuana dispensary.
In his application, Johansson suggested that he might open his business, Prospect Ministries Inc., near the Rhode Island Mall or off Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence.
Despite his recent problems, Johansson has no plans to withdraw his application to open a marijuana dispensary. The Health Department is expected to announce its selections next month.
“My hat is already in the ring,” he said. “It’s up to the [health] board right now, but I don’t think that we have any chance at all.”
On Sept. 14, a team of West Warwick narcotics police officers executed a warrant at 6 a.m. on Johansson’s church at 724 Providence St., in West Warwick, in search of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, documents, records and proceeds from the unlawful sale and possession of drugs.
During the search, the police allegedly found 183 marijuana plants of “varying sizes in pots and trays located in several first-level grow rooms.” They also seized over two pounds of marijuana, $565, an electronic scale and apparatus used to cultivate marijuana indoors, the police said.
The officers in the drug raid also found two cards indicating that Johansson was a licensed caregiver, or supplier, in the state medical-marijuana program. The card allows him to grow up to 24 mature marijuana plants for up to five patients registered with the program.
The police said Brindamour told them that the Health Department had approved two cards for her, but she had yet to receive them.
Johansson and Brindamour were arraigned on the felony drug charges in state court.
Three months later, Johansson submitted his application to operate a marijuana dispensary with the Health Department. In his cover letter, he freely spoke about the police raid and his arrest on drug charges.
“After being pushed face down naked on the floor and handcuffed, I tried to explain plant counts to them and describe the legality of our grow,” he wrote. “They decided to arrest and charge us with two felonies. While we were locked up for over 24 hours, they killed all our plants in violation of state law. The amount of medicine lost and its effects on our patients has been excruciating. The physical, psychological and emotional effects have been devastating to us.”
Johansson said that the shotgun, a .12-gauge, was not loaded. He said that he has used it for hunting and skeet shooting. He also said that he strictly provided the marijuana for patients, not street sales. He estimated that the drugs provided pain relief for “well over 100 people” in the West Warwick area.
“Basically, we assisted people and got them off pharmaceuticals,” he said. “We got them off medicine that was killing them. There was so much demand in the community.”
According to Johansson’s application, he received a certificate of ordination, in May 2009, from the World Christianship Ministries, based in Fresno, Calif. He had previously worked in construction and real estate.
Following the arrests, prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha took a closer look at the case. As a rule, federal authorities are not interested in prosecuting cases involving fewer than 100 marijuana plants, but once the amount crosses that threshold, the government often weighs in.
Two months ago, Neronha’s office prosecuted a Providence man, Mark McNaught, caught with more than 100 plants in his apartment. He was sentenced to five years in prison. They also have a case against another man, Shayne R. Costa, who was arrested last fall for growing more than 100 plants on his property in Tiverton.
It’s the second time he has been prosecuted for the same crime.
On Jan. 26, a criminal complaint was filed against Johansson and Brindamour in U.S. District Court in Providence. They were released on unsecured bond and their cases will now be presented to a grand jury.
Johansson said that he is ready to fight the charges in federal court. He said that if it goes to trial, he will have about 15 of his patients take the stand and testify about how his marijuana gave them pain relief.
Under state law, a criminal conviction would not prohibit Johansson from operating a dispensary as long as the Health Department determined that the conviction was related to the medical use of marijuana.
“There is no way they are going to convict me,” he predicted. “[My patients’] lives have been saved. I don’t want to go to trial, I want to be left alone. This is a plant — God’s gift.”
By W. Zachary Malinowski
Journal Staff Writer