Medical marijuana defendant testifies

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Aug 30, 2001.

  1. By TERRY VAU DELL - Staff Writer

    OROVILLE - Butte County's first medical-marijuana trial should go to the jury today.

    On the witness stand Wednesday, the defendant, Joseph Michael Rogers, 44, of Cohasset, admitted trying to start up a community co-op to help other medicinal marijuana patients obtain clones (clippings from pot plants) so they could grow their own marijuana.

    But he said his intent was not to personally distribute the drug, only to act as a "facilitator"

    A six-man, six-woman Butte County Superior Court jury will determine whether Rogers is guilty of felony cultivating and possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

    The verdict is being anticipated both by law enforcement and medical-marijuana proponents as some indication of how the public views local implementation of Prop. 215, the 1996 initiative which legalized smoking pot with a doctor's recommendation in California.

    Rogers was arrested Aug. 30, 1999, after sheriff's deputies seized a total of 21 marijuana plants at his Cohasset Road home and a Chico residence.

    The prosecution is also attempting to link Rogers to 173 pot clones and plants found in various stages of growth at the home of two Paradise residents.

    Charges against the ridge pair, Glenda Spangler and Roger Chambers, were dismissed last year after a judge ruled the officers did not have probable cause to search their trailer.

    Rogers testified Wednesday he had no hand in the larger ridge grove and insisted that the 21 plants at his residence were strictly for his "personal use."

    He said he has been using marijuana since 1997 with a doctor's recommendation for pain stemming from a college wrestling match when he was 18 which at one time had left him partially paralyzed.

    Marijuana left him with none of the "horrid side effects" he said he experienced from a slew of pharmaceuticals.

    Faced with buying pot on the "black market" at exorbitant prices, Rogers said he opted to grow his own.

    Under questioning by his lawyer, Kevin Sears of Chico, the Cohasset defendant said after attending a marijuana seminar in April, 1999, with Chambers and Spangler, they decided to form a "small community co-op" that would help other ill persons obtain medicinal marijuana.

    Rogers claims he attempted a "dialogue" with local law enforcement to set guidelines by which the co-op could operate legally before going on TV to promote the so-called "Cohasset Cultivator's Commune Project."

    Fliers, containing both his and Spangler's phone numbers, were distributed, offering seven "super stony" pot clones for "$10 and up."

    Rogers claimed he purposely made the language in the fliers "provocative" to gain media attention after an ad he ran in a local newspaper about the fledgling co-op failed to draw much response.

    The Cohasset man said he didn't feel that officials have lived up to a provision of Prop. 215 which "encourages state and federal government to provide for the safe and affordable access" of marijuana to sick persons.

    Asked by deputy district attorney Clare Keithley whether his intent was to make up for any "shortcomings" in the law by distributing pot himself, the bespectacled defendant replied,

    "No. the co-op was providing the clones, not me; that's why we called it a project."

    Rogers admitted selling only one pot clone for $10 to a medical-marijuana patient and accepting a $5 "membership fee" from another individual to join the co-op.

    "Going through all of this, all I ever got was $15," the Cohasset defendant told the jury.

    Before resting Wednesday, Keithley called a Chico friend of Rogers, known locally as "Medical Mike" Nelson.

    Nelson, who says he smokes pot with a doctor's recommendation to combat nausea and other effects of Hepatitis C, acknowledged telling a prosecutor last year that he had purchased marijuana from Rogers.

    But Nelson told Rogers' jury he had been "stretching the truth" in an effort to make it appear Rogers was his "primary care giver," so the charges against the accused Cohasset defendant would be dropped.

    Nelson testified Wednesday that he had only "reimbursed" Rogers a couple times for obtaining some marijuana for him from a Red Bluff co-op.

    The case is expected to go to the jury today after the defense calls its final witness: the Grass Valley doctor who prescribed marijuana for Rogers.

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