Supporters Rally for S.J. County Man 

Supporters Rally for S.J. County Man 
Posted by CN Staff on May 24, 2005 at 08:02:45 PT
By Scott Smith, Record Staff Writer
Source: Stockton Record 
Stockton, Calif. -- A San Joaquin County man fighting for his right to grow marijuana at home for medical use appeared in court Monday flanked by a group of sign-carrying supporters. Aaron Paradiso, a 27-year-old quadriplegic, said a victory in court at his personal expense could clear the way for others like him who rely on marijuana's medical use to ease their physical pain but can't buy it locally.
"I think it's encouraging for all patients in San Joaquin County," Paradiso said outside court. "Just the cost of the legal battle alone is way more than the average person can afford." Attorneys on both sides say they should resolve the case before it goes to trial. Paradiso, who faces charges of possession of marijuana for sale and cultivating marijuana, along with a firearms violation, returns to San Joaquin County Superior Court next month. About 30 medical marijuana advocates who traveled from San Francisco, Sonora and Sacramento gathered outside the Stockton Courthouse for the hearing. Some carried signs with slogans such as "Stop Arresting Patients." Paradiso, who said he has spent about $110,000 on the case, is represented by M. Gerald Schwartzback, a Mill Valley attorney who represented actor Robert Blake. Paradiso was injured in a 1998 car accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. He uses a wheelchair. Paradiso said he has to travel to a cannabis club in the Bay Area once a week to buy his supply of medical marijuana. He is using proceeds from the accident settlement to pay his legal fees.San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Phillip Urie said Paradiso paints himself as a crusader. Urie said Paradiso's gun possession -- and not the marijuana -- drives the case. Sheriff's deputies responding two years ago to a neighbor's report of a gunshot found 52 marijuana plants. Paradiso claims the guns belonged to his mother, Urie said."He had a gun collection that could choke a horse," Urie said. A juvenile conviction prevents Paradiso from possessing a gun until he is 30, Urie said. Paradiso countered that the guns were locked, and his quadriplegia keeps him from holding a gun. Tony Bowler, president of the California Marijuana Party, a political group, traveled from San Francisco on Monday to support Paradiso. Bowler also works at a medical-marijuana dispensary."It's clearly for medical use here," Bowler said.Paradiso's case was tried before and thrown out on a legal technicality.Paradiso supporter Seth Matrisciano, 17, said he uses medical marijuana to soothe a number of ailments. He wears clothes made from hemp. "What's at stake here is Stockton's level of compassion," Matrisciano said. Hilary McQuie, a spokeswoman for Americans for Safe Access, called San Joaquin County a "rogue" county. San Joaquin County is one pocket in California where state law is misunderstood, she said, and Paradiso has fallen victim to politics. "He should be given an award, not prosecuted," McQuie said. Complete Title: Supporters Rally for S.J. County Man Charged in Medical Marijuana CaseSource: Record, The (CA)Author: Scott Smith, Record Staff WriterPublished: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 Copyright: 2005 The RecordContact: editor recordnet.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on May 25, 2005 at 09:49:29 PT
Related Article from The Stockton Record
Cops Not 'Rogue,' Just Confused***By Michael Fitzgerald, Record ColumnistPublished: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 One of those media-ready supporters of medical marijuana this week declared San Joaquin County a "rogue" pocket of defiant cops and prosecutors who refuse to accept 1996's Medical Marijuana Initiative.Is that so?Well, a Lodi man applied a year ago to open a medical-marijuana dispensary in Stockton. The council voted to study the issue. Judging by the length of time that has elapsed, council members are studying the issue in remarkable depth. World-expert depth.And then there is the trial, or retrial, of Aaron Paradiso. Paradiso, 27, of Stockton (technically he lives in the county) is fighting charges he grew marijuana with intent to sell it. Paralyzed in all limbs, Paradiso says he grows pot legally with a doctor's recommendation and uses it to ease his muscle spasms and back pain.At Paradiso's first trial, Judge Terrence Van Oss certainly sounded roguish when he gratuitously proclaimed his dislike of the medical-marijuana law. "The voters," he said in court, "unfortunately didn't understand the issues at all."But the retrial of Paradiso has more-complex motives than Van Oss's blunt-spoken conservatism.First, Paradiso wasn't growing marijuana just for himself; he was growing it for his brother, friend and mother: 50 to 80 plants in all. He contends that was legal. 
Secondly, said District Attorney Jim Willett, "We believe it's being distributed beyond that little circle." That would be illegal.Third, the narcs who raided Paradiso's house found guns. That is a side issue. But the point is the case is more complicated than it looks.The reality is that the spirit of Proposition 215 is clearer than the letter. The law allowed medical marijuana, but it did not specify how much. This put cops in a ticklish situation. Suddenly outlaws growing plantations for sale have doctor's recommendations. Wheelchair-bound growers are growing suspiciously large gardens. Who's legit? Who's not? Police busted a home in the Pixie Drive area that had been converted into a giant marijuana greenhouse robo-farmed by sophisticated machinery. But when the home's owner produced a medical-marijuana patient card, the D.A. declined to prosecute.And for every citizen upset when cops bust a neighbor's pot patch, there's one upset when they don't, said Deputy Police Chief Blair Ulring. "They're extremely upset when we allow them to grow marijuana next door. And they just can't believe it."Not to mention that federal law still outlaws any marijuana. John Drummond, Assistant San Joaquin County sheriff, got a laugh-out-loud line out of this legal disparity, if you recall former Sheriff Baxter Dunn's federal trial."We don't want to make the feds mad," Drummond said. "We have a little history of making the feds mad. We don't want to go down that road again."A law to clarify Proposition 215 suggested 12 pot plants as the standard for personal use. But local law enforcement agencies still go case by case.In 2002, Willet wrote guidelines for cops handling marijuana-cultivation cases. The guidelines say no longer to bust every grower and rip out the cannabis plants but to look for evidence that the pot is being grown for sale."A dozen or so plants, you'll have no problem from the local government, none, absolutely none," Willett said. Fair enough. But the D.A. had a "but." "I believe that the voters with the medical-marijuana initiative voted with the picture of an AIDS-stricken person, cancer-stricken person, even glaucoma-stricken person in mind," Willett said. "But not to decriminalize marijuana sales."So local cops don't sound rogue, although the loose aspects of the law do leave room for mean-spirited abuse. Paradiso claims he proves that."They seized my medication," he said, vowing to prevail in court.Copyright: 2005 The Record
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