Trial May Set Precedent



On Aug. 19, 2002 began the first California medical marijuana case to be tried after the July 18, 2002 California Supreme Court decision, which basically upheld the 1996 medical marijuana initiative (Proposition 215).

The trial of Temecula, California couple Marty Victor, who says he has optic discedema, papilledema and cluster headaches and LaVonne Victor who apparently suffers from multiple sclerosis and panic attacks, is currently ongoing at the Riverside County Courthouse in Perris, California.

The Victor case is being closely watched by patients and law enforcement alike as it may set precedent in California, and possibly other U.S. states where such medical marijuana initiatives are in force.

The California Supreme Court’s Mower decision concluded that the “the burden of proof” as to a defendant’s need and authorization for the medical use of marijuana, “be allocated to defendant, but the defendant should be required merely to raise a reasonable doubt as to those facts rather than to prove them by a preponderance of the evidence.”

The Victors told The Press-Enterprise (June 7, 2002), that they were arrested last October for growing marijuana in their Temecula home. LaVonne Victor, 46, said she inhales the drug using a humidifier to ease her multiple sclerosis and emphysema. Riverside Prosecuting Attorney Bower, at the direction of Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask, began the trial with close examination of the Victor’s physician, Dr. Bearman.

On Sep. 27, 2002 the judge ordered the couple to stand trial for the sale and cultivation of the cannabis plants they say they grew for medicinal purposes.

The Victors' West Hollywood-based attorney, Eric Shevin, said after court that his clients will prevail. "The universe protects good people and the Victors are good people; it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are going to find it," he said.

Riverside County allows the amount possessed to not exceed that necessary for medicinal purposes. The county does not specify, however, what amounts would fit into the "necessary for medicinal purposes" description.

However, during the Sep. 27, 2002 hearing, the Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Brewer said that the defense had admitted the couple used only 6 ounces of marijuana a month between them -- which over a 12-month period would equal about one-fifth of the amount deputies are alleged to have found in the couple's home in the October raid.

Temecula Police Chief Jim Domenoe testified that he had spoken with Martin Victor twice nearly a year before the couple's arrest, when Victor called to make inquiries about what he needed to do before growing marijuana at his home, and to get clarification about enforcement policies.

Domenoe said he told Victor during the first call that he was uncertain what the implications of Prop. 215 were for the Victors. And in a second call, a few days later, he said, he told Victor that while state law might allow him to have the marijuana, federal law was another matter, and if a federal agent saw the plants, he could be subject to arrest.

"What criminal in their right mind would call the police and tip them off, before they go out and commit the crime?" Shevin asked after Friday's hearing, implying the Victors truly believed they were not breaking the law.

When deputies raided the couple's home in October, Brewer said, they found 15.7 pounds of marijuana in mason jars, 6.2 pounds in trash bags and eight plants being cultivated on the couple's property. Of those eight plants, five had buds that could have been harvested to bring in another half-pound of marijuana apiece, she said.

UPDATE - Dec. 1, 2003:

"In a plea agreement announced at Southwest Justice Center on Monday [Dec. 1, 2003], Martin Victor, 51, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of furnishing an ounce of marijuana and was fined $100. Charges against his wife, LaVonne, 48, were dropped as part of the agreement." - North Country Times & Cannabis News, Dec. 1, 2003

Thanks to Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project (MAPP) for their help with this report.