Robert Marshall of Morro Bay was acquitted on charges of felony marijuana cultivation by the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Friday, March 25. Morro Bay police arrested Marshall last September for growing 30 mature females and 43 additional seedlings and male plants. But Marshall was able to prove that this was a reasonable quantity for the two medical patients for whom he acts as a designated caregiver.
In the hearing that began on Feb. 4, defense attorney Lou Koory presented evidence to indicate that an operation of this size would likely yield no more than eight or nine ounces of usable product.
Koory returned to the courtroom on Friday feeling quite confident that his client would prevail, and afterward described Deputy District Attorney Linda Luong's presentation of evidence as a "non-event," so insignificant that for the first time in his legal career, he declined to cross-examine witnesses.
Marshall and Koory both hope this ruling will lead local authorities to look upon Proposition 215 more favorably, and Marshall suggested that this case would force the issue.
"We need firm county guidelines," Marshall said. "It's up to the knowledgeable people of this community to educate the police and policy-makers."
Koory also filed a motion for return of property on March 28, asking the county to return all of Marshall's property that was seized on the night of his arrest. The attorney was successful in a similar motion with the case of Donovan No Runner, and he expects to see Marshall's plants, lights, and hardware returned reluctantly but without incident. But he's not entirely optimistic.
"The message is that people acting as caregivers in this county need to understand that law enforcement is still suspicious and perhaps outright hostile toward the concept of medical marijuana," Koory explained. "Even when they're acting within the confines of the law, they're still vulnerable to arrest and prosecution."
City councils from Grover Beach to Paso Robles have already passed moratoria against medical marijuana dispensaries, and documented patients are at a loss for what to do.
Marshall recommends that patients in need take a two-hour drive to the Compassionate Caregivers in Bakersfield, where they can purchase up to eight ounces (half a pound) of quality product at a time. Call (661) 322-2555 for more details.