Montana Marijuana Prosecution Runs into Jury Pool "Mutiny"
No way would they convict someone of possessing a 16th of an ounce of marijuana, member after member of a Missoula County jury pool told a stunned judge and prosecutor last week. As a result, the Missoulian newspaper reported, the judge in the case ordered a recess, and a plea bargain was reached in a drug trafficking case against Touray Cornell.
Potential jurors repeatedly told the court they would not convict for a couple of buds found during a raid on Cornell's home in April. One juror wondered out loud why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, especially in a locale that approved a 2004 initiative making marijuana possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority.
After that juror questioned the prosecution, District Judge Dusty Deschamps polled the jury pool and found at least five others who agreed. That was in addition to two others who had already been excused because of their philosophical objections to pot prosecutions.
"I thought, 'Geez, I don't know if we can seat a jury,'" Deschamps said, explaining why he called a recess.
Instead, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Paul and defense attorney Martin Ellison worked out a plea agreement on the more serious drug trafficking charge. Cornell entered an Alford plea, in which he did not admit guilt. He was then sentenced to 20 years in prison with 19 suspended. Since Cornell has already served 200 days awaiting trial, he should be out in a matter of months.
"Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state's marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances," according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.
It was "a mutiny" by the jury pool, said Paul.
"I think it's going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount," Deschamps said.
Noting changing attitudes toward marijuana, as evidenced by the Missoula initiative and voters' approval of the state's medical marijuana law, Deschamps wondered if it were fair to insist on impaneling a jury that consisted only of "hardliners" who object to all drug use. "I think that poses a real challenge in proceeding," he said. "Are we really seating a jury of their peers if we just leave people on who are militant on the subject?"
"I think that's outstanding," John Masterson, who heads Montana NORML, said when told of the incident. "The American populace over the last 10 years or so has begun to believe in a majority that assigning criminal penalties for the personal possession of marijuana is an unjust and a stupid use of government resources."
Deputy DA Paul said that normally a case involving such a small amount of pot wouldn’t have gone that far through the court system, but for the felony charge involved. But the response of the jury pool "is going to be something we're going to have to consider" in future cases, he said.
Armed Police Raided My Farm
A disabled farmer who took a potshot at a fox described yesterday how his house was stormed by armed police after he unwittingly hit two burglars. Edward Tibbs aged 63 went out on his mobility scooter in the dead of night when he heard his geese becoming distressed. After spotting the fox and firing at it, he returned to his home at Elm Farm in Crays Hill near Basildon in Essex, and went to bed. It was only when 16 armed officers arrived hours later as a police helicopter hovered above his property that he learned two people had been treated at hospital for gunshot wounds to their backs and legs.
The case echoes that of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, who shot and killed an intruder at his farmhouse 11 years ago. But Mr Tibbs, who has been married to wife Jacky for 42 years, yesterday insisted the incident had been an accident. ‘I was shattered when the police told me what was happening,’ he said. ‘They closed my business down for a day or so and took all my stuff away, including my clothes and all my money too. ‘I was bailed and had this hanging over me. It was a great relief when they phoned and told us the charges were being dropped.’
Mr Tibbs complained he was now without his shotguns after police withdrew his firearms licence. He said: ‘Shooting is my life. I used to shoot every other day – rats, foxes, pigeons, vermin.’ During the police investigation it emerged that, unknown to Mr Tibbs, a cannabis factory had been set up in an outbuilding he was renting to tenants on his 650-acre farm. Firearms were also found in the outbuilding.
No snow leads to cannabis bust
POLICE busted a "significant" cannabis factory because its grow lights melted all the SNOW on its roof.
Officers responding to reports of suspicious behaviour said the house was the only one not thickly blanketed after last week's snowfall.
On Thursday they raided the house in Aylestone, Leicester, and found more than 300 cannabis plants.
Police said the hi-tech growing systems gave off a lot of heat and melted the snow on the roof.
Pc Chris Gerrard said the house had been badly damaged by work to set up the cannabis factory.
He said: "The landlord has been left with a lot of clearing up to do.
"By closing this drugs factory we have disrupted a significant criminal enterprise, and stopped a large amount of drugs from reaching the streets of Leicester."
No-one was in the house. No arrests have so far been made but police said inquiries were at an early stage.
Cannabis Conference A Major Draw To The Mile High City
The high temperature in Steve Lach's hometown in Hawaii on Thursday was 80 degrees, which is to say he had better have a darn good reason for spending the weekend in chilly Denver. Starting today, Lach will be hunkered in a booth at KushCon, where he will be showing off and autographing his handmade smoking pipes, some of which are plated in 22-karat gold. If ever there were an example of the gravitational pull KushCon has had on the marijuana industry, Lach is it. "The trade shows in California pale in comparison," said Lach, who owns Celebration Pipes. "Colorado is the geographic center of the universe for this industry."
This edition of KushCon a "cannabis lifestyle" convention that runs until Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center underscores the state's growing reputation within the pot community. While Colorado may not yet be the center of marijuana culture, it is the hub of marijuana business. KushCon organizers and exhibitors say Colorado's for-profit model legitimized by laws passed in the legislature and rules soon to be adopted by state agencies is the envy of canna-business owners across the country. "Denver is the leader in the world," said Michael Lerner, a marijuana media mogul who is putting on the show. "Colorado is light-years ahead of the rest of the world in how it regulates and taxes cannabis."
Speaking astronomically about KushCon seems fitting. This second version of the trade show the first was in April stretches over a cavernous 300,000 square feet in the convention center. More than 500 exhibitors will have booths at the show. Organizers have planned concerts, cooking classes, glass-blowing demonstrations, skateboarding exhibitions, panel discussions, speeches and thousands of dollars in giveaways. But it is the breadth of the show that makes it significant in the cannabis world. Lerner, who owns Kush Magazine.
Feds Recover Nearly 11 Tons Of Marijuana
Agents monitored illegal cache carried on rail cars from Texas-Mexico border to Chicago Heights. As their plans to smuggle nearly 11 tons of marijuana into the Chicago area neared fruition, the alleged plotters talked of a celebration that would last two or three days, according to a federal complaint filed against them Thursday. In reality, six Union Pacific Railroad cars carrying the cache of illegal drugs from Mexico had been under 24-hour surveillance for several days by multiple law enforcement agencies, authorities said.
Surveillance teams of federal agents were on board the train and also provided extra security at layovers as the marijuana made its way here over a five-day journey, authorities said. Once it arrived at its destination on Dec. 6 in Chicago Heights, investigators watched the warehouse with hidden video cameras and from the air as the marijuana was off-loaded.
Seven men were charged with drug conspiracy for their alleged roles in the smuggling. Officials called the seizure the largest capture of marijuana in the Chicago area in the last decade and put its estimated value at about $22 million. The investigation was launched last month after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent discovered the marijuana bundled into sacks and camouflaged with a thick layer of red masonry dust on a train near a Texas border town.
Marijuana Is Becoming More Popular For U.S. Teens
More U.S. teens may be smoking marijuana than cigarettes but fewer are binge-drinking, federal health officials said on Tuesday. An annual survey on drug use found increases in marijuana use among all age groups but showed slightly fewer high school seniors were smoking than in recent years. "These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, place our young people at particular risk," National Institute for Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a statement.
"Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about one in six people who start using it as adolescents become addicted." The survey of 46,482 students from 396 schools found that 16 percent of eighth-graders, typically 13 and 14 years old, admitted to using marijuana, up from 14.5 percent in 2009. More than 21 percent of high school seniors, aged 17 and 18, said they had used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent said they smoked cigarettes. This is the first time marijuana use has passed cigarette use in the survey.
The survey found binge drinking, defined as having five drinks or more in a row, was down. Just over 23 percent of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking in the past two weeks, compared to 25 percent in 2009 and 31.5 percent in 1998. The survey found more than 6 percent of high school seniors use marijuana every day, up from 5 percent last year. More than 3 percent of 10th graders and 1 percent of eighth graders said they used marijuana daily, all increases over 2009.
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