Medical marijuana: Ongoing Bob Crouse trial shows prosecution overreach, advocate says

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Last July, we told you about the prosecution of medical marijuana patient Bob Crouse, a longtime Colorado Springs restaurateur who faced cultivation and distribution charges for going beyond the state's plant limit despite having a doctor recommendation to exceed it due to his treatment regimen for leukemia. His trial is now underway, with it possibly wrapping tomorrow, and a marijuana advocate leading demonstrations there is hopeful Crouse will be exonerated.

"I think the prosecution is grasping at straws," says Audrey Hatfield, president of Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights, who's been protesting throughout the week at the courthouse where Crouse is being tried. "They tried to ask for yet another continuance on Monday and were denied. And they keep saying he didn't have a red card" -- the MMJ license issued by the state -- "but the judge told the jurors yesterday that having a red card is optional. So they don't seem to know the law."

This last assertion echoes one made by attorney Rob Corry following the acquittal of Colorado Springs caregiver Elisa Kappelmann earlier this month. And Hatfield notes that another Springs local targeted with marijuana charges -- Jesse Vriese, a dispensary worker who was accused of overgrowing even though he didn't have anything to do with that part of the operation -- was also acquitted last week.

Crouse's case is more complicated. As we reported last year, the 63 year old has lymphocytic leukemia that's currently in the chronic, rather than acute, stage -- a period during which oncologists typically monitor the disease, as opposed to bombarding it with radiation and chemicals. But that doesn't mean he's symptom-free. He told us the condition -- which was discovered four years ago via a blood test administered after he fell from a ladder, breaking several ribs and puncturing a lung in the process -- causes varying degrees of pain throughout his body, but especially in his neck and shoulder area. In addition, he suffers from stress, anxiety and sleep disorders.

Medical marijuana provided him with the most consistent and effective relief of any therapy he tried, he said. But as he conducted additional research into the plant, he discovered Phoenix Tears, a cannabis oil treatment associated with Rick Simpson that fellow cancer patient Larry Shurtleff credits with eradicating a tumor that caused him to lose an eye and all his teeth.

To use this treatment, Crouse needed more plants than the six okayed per patient by Amendment 20, the measure that legalized medical marijuana in Colorado. However, this number can be exceeded if a doctor believes more marijuana is medically necessary for a particular patient. And in Crouse's case, his physician gave him a written recommendation to obtain 75 plants, which he said would "grow enough weight to be able to manufacture the tincture."

Page down to continue reading about the Bob Crouse case. After getting the doctor's approval, Crouse filled out the application and submitted it to Colorado regulators, after which he began to acquire more plants. But three months later, he maintained, "I got the application back from the state saying there was an address on one piece of paper that was different from the address on another piece of paper. So they needed to have it done again and submitted back as soon as possible."

But before that could happen, local police knocked on his door. "They told me they were there to check on my plant count," Crouse recalled. "They began to explain that they had people coming over with search warrants. And over the next three or four hours, ten or twelve different government-task-force employees arrived in eight or nine brand new SUVs -- and they dismantled and took everything I had."

Along the way, "they treated me like a criminal," he allowed. "I thought due process was something we did in this country, but they came in and basically convicted me."

Not yet. According to Hatfield, the prosecution has completed its presentation, giving the defense an opportunity to call witnesses like Dr. Bob Melamede, who appeared yesterday. The jurors will likely began to consider the case tomorrow, with today's session set to get underway at 2:30 p.m.

"Bob did nothing to break the law," asserts Hatfield, who will be taking part in another demonstration at the courthouse tomorrow morning. "It's his right to use what medication works best for him, and that a doctor recommends. And the Phoenix Tears program was working -- it's proven by his blood results. So I think the government needs to stay out of people's business and learn what the law is."

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Surgery success for Larry Shurtleff, who credits Phoenix Tears with whipping cancer."

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