Marijuana group sues prosecutor

A medicinal marijuana advocacy group has sued Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan on behalf of two men facing felonies after a February traffic stop yielded three pounds of marijuana.

The Montana Medical Growers Association is being represented by Tim Baldwin, a Kalispell attorney who said Thursday that the goal of the litigation is to establish that Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act allows registered caregivers to lawfully transport marijuana and its paraphernalia to other caregivers.

He filed a complaint for declaratory judgment Wednesday in Flathead District Court and said he hopes the case will set a precedent.

Corrigan said Thursday afternoon that he has not been served with the lawsuit. He declined to comment.

According to Baldwin: “The primary goal is to clarify what the medicinal marijuana act actually allows and, two, it’s designed to essentially enjoin… law enforcement and the county attorney’s office from prosecuting actions that we believe to be allowed.”  

The lawsuit calls for relief in the form of a judgment declaring it legal for marijuana caregivers to transport marijuana to other caregivers themselves or through an agent. It also asks that a judge acknowledge that a caregiver can cultivate marijuana for other caregivers.

Though Baldwin declined to identify the plaintiffs, an attached affidavit signed by attorney Chris Lindsey identified two of the men as Leif Erickson and Robin Ruiz. They are identified in court documents as Courier 1 and Courier 2, along with three additional unidentified plaintiffs — Caregiver 1, Caregiver 2 and Caregiver 3 — who are described as witnesses.

Erickson and Ruiz were arrested by Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Northwest Drug Task Force deputies after the vehicle in which they were traveling was stopped on U.S. 2 near Lake Five Road on Feb. 3.

A search of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of three pounds of marijuana, 300 capsules believed to contain THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana — and five vials of suspected THC honey, according to court documents.

The men were driving to Great Falls to deliver the marijuana, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

They were arrested and subsequently charged by the Flathead County Attorney’s Office with criminal possession with intent to distribute — a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $50,000. They have both pleaded innocent.

One of them is a registered caregiver and the other a patient, according to court documents.

Baldwin and Lindsey wrote in their initial filing that Northwest Drug Task Force agent Dave Herman said in a March 15 interview that a caregiver is not lawfully able to deliver, transport or transfer marijuana or its paraphernalia to another caregiver.

“Numerous other Montana law enforcement agencies, including the Attorney General of the state of Montana have expressed the same legal presumption as expressed by Dave Herman,” the lawsuit states. “Based upon this legal presumption, many investigations, arrests and prosecutions are being conducted and the rights, status and legal relationship of caregivers in Montana and in Flathead County are in real and actual risk, jeopardy and controversy.”

Lindsey, who is representing Ruiz and Erickson in their criminal cases, wrote in an affidavit attached to the lawsuit that the Montana Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice have provided instruction to sheriff’s offices and county attorney’s offices dictating that the Medical Marijuana Act does not allow for caregiver-to-caregiver transfers.

Baldwin said his clients and other medical marijuana caregivers are not only allowed to transport marijuana, but that they are required to do so by the act.

“They have an obligation and a duty to make sure they care for their patients,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he believes the case, and others like it, will lead to federal actions to limit government intrusion.

“There’s going to be a clash between federal and state ideology,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin recently moved to Flathead County from Florida along with several members of his family, including his father, former Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin.

He recently wrote a column posted on the website in which he criticized America’s overall enforcement of laws pertaining to marijuana. In the column, he criticized the recent federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and wrote that the plant should be made legal.

Drawing on his experience as a prosecutor, he wrote that, “I see the absurdity of the ‘war on marijuana.’ During my time as prosecutor at the Florida State Attorney’s Office from 2004 to 2006 where I handled literally thousands of criminal cases and tried nearly 60 jury trials, I was never impressed that marijuana was the cause of any criminal activity.”

In the lawsuit, the attorneys also ask that a hearing be held on the matter and that they be granted reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Baldwin said he will file a supplement to the lawsuit detailing the provisions of Montana’s law that allow caregivers to transport marijuana to other caregivers soon.

via : Daily Inter Lake

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