Medical marijuana patient Bob Crouse acquitted: Another wasteful prosecution?

On Thursday, we updated you on the trial of Bob Crouse, a medical marijuana patient with cancer who faced cultivation and distribution charges for going beyond the state's plant limit despite having a doctor recommendation to exceed it. At that time, activist Audrey Hatfield felt things were going Crouse's way and predicted a positive verdict the next day, and she was correct on both scores. Late Friday afternoon, he was acquitted of all charges against him.

Not that there wasn't some drama along the way. On Friday morning, according to Hatfield, president of Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights, who was among the advocates protesting throughout the week at the courthouse where Crouse was tried, prosecutors with 4th Judicial District DA Dan May's office "tried to get the judge to make it so Bob wouldn't be able to use the affirmative defense."

This tactic would have prevented the jury from considering a doctor's recommendation for Crouse to possess 75 plants needed to make Phoenix Tears, a cannabis-oil treatment that appeared to be having a positive effect on his chronic lymphocytic leukemia. At the time, Crouse, a longtime Colorado Springs restaurateur, had not received his medical-marijuana red card from the state due to a paperwork snafu -- meaning that without the doctor's recommendation, his entire case might have collapsed. But, says Hatfield, "the judge wouldn't have it."

Crouse's supporters interpreted this move as, in Hatfield's words, "a last ditch effort" on the part of desperate prosecutors -- and they felt the same way about courthouse personnel refusing to allow entry to Jason Lauve, acquitted in his own landmark marijuana case, because he had medication in his possession. In the end, though, these Hail Marys didn't seem to have much impact on the jury, which cleared Crouse after just four hours of deliberation -- a significant portion of which was taken up by lunch.

Immediately after the not-guilty verdicts were read, Crouse burst into tears -- an understandable reaction not only because his legal ordeal was finally at an end, but also due to his having been evacuated from the house he shares with his ninety-year-old mother after the Waldo Canyon fire roared into Colorado Springs. Fortunately, the two of them were allowed to return to their home yesterday, Hatfield says.

As Crouse was flooded with emotion, a celebration broke out in the courtroom among his supporters, with Hatfield decrying the resources wasted by targeting a cancer patient simply trying to follow his doctor's recommendation.

Indeed, May's office has been on quite the losing streak when it comes to high-profile marijuana prosecutions.

Page down to read more about Bob Crouse's acquittal and see a video shot after the verdict. In June, medical marijuana grower Elisa Kappelmann was exonerated following a two-year prosecution that included surveillance of her warehouse grow by a high-flying Department of Homeland Security aircraft outfitted with heat-mapping capability (despite the fact that multiple government agencies already had her address and knew exactly what she was doing). And Hatfield noted that 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, also won acquittal earlier in June.

Will the Crouse verdict convince May and company to use more discretion when it comes to pot prosecutions? Hatfield, who's planning a July 30 protest at May's office, is dubious.

"I don't know if they're going to listen to our message," she concedes, noting that in the last week or so, she's had a couple of new people contact her with tales of unjust marijuana prosecutions. She hasn't had a chance to check out their stories, so she can't vouch for them quite yet, but she says, "as far as I can tell, this kind of thing is still going on.

"I would hope they'd look at Bob's case, and these other cases, and say, 'This just isn't working for us.' But Dan May's got his agenda" -- he's seen in Republican quarters as a possible successor to John Suthers as Colorado Attorney General -- "and I think he's going to try to prosecute as many cases as he possibly can."

For the most part, Hatfield goes on, prosecutors in the Springs "try to get people to take a plea deal. But if you're in the right and you have everything up to speed but you're still being hassled, we encourage people to plead not guilty and take the case to trial. Because that wastes [the DA's] money. And the only way to get them is in the pocketbook."

Look below to see Crouse's post-victory celebration.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Ongoing Bob Crouse trial shows prosecution overreach, advocate says."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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