Prosecutors Drop Charges In Interstate Medical Marijuana Case

Nevada state prosecutors dismissed felony marijuana possession charges against a California cancer patient on June 16 after the district attorney conceded that the marijuana was for medical use only.

Law enforcement officials arrested Douglas Burton in February after he purchased marijuana from the Cannabis Cultivators Club in San Francisco and drove to Nevada to visit his parents. Burton’s lawyer, Richard Sears, argued that his client suffers from thyroid cancer and uses marijuana to help cope with pain and nausea. Sears also said that his client was unaware that California law permitting the legal use and cultivation of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation did not extend beyond the state’s borders.

The dismissal order followed a pre-trial hearing last week during which District Judge Mike Fondi rejected a prosecution move to block reference’s to Burton’s cancer. Fondi called the prosecution’s request “absurd.” District Attorney Noel Waters later admitted that Burton could make an adequate “medical necessity” defense and conceded that he probably wouldn’t be able to get a conviction in the case.

“On balance, it is respectfully submitted that the interests of justice would best be served by dismissal,” Waters said.

Legal analysts emphasize that this case is the first interstate proceeding involving medical marijuana purchased in California. In a similar case scheduled to take place later this month, best-selling author Peter McWilliams will stand trial in Michigan for marijuana possession. McWilliams, who is a California resident, uses marijuana medicinally to alleviate the side effects of both AIDS and cancer. He was arrested last December at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport after an officer asked if he was carrying marijuana. McWilliams’ trial will begin on July 18.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.