Four years after arrest, local man hasn't given up medical marijuana fight

March 04, 2005

Layla Bohm, Lodi News-Sentinel

Brian Bader doesn't remember when he first tried marijuana. At the time, it was something to do as a 'kid,' he says. Now, though, the 47-year-old former Lodi resident says he uses marijuana to ease pain from a soft-tissue disease. He doesn't like Vicodin, and Valium makes him feel hungover.

It's his use of marijuana and growth of the plants that has been the subject of court proceedings for nearly four years. Bader will return to court Monday, and is expected to soon stand trial on felony possession and cultivation charges.

The self-employed roofer and one-time City Council candidate, who has a prescription from a medical doctor in Berkeley, doesn't deny growing marijuana. He just doesn't see anything wrong with it.

'Let's assume I'm guilty (of possession and cultivation). Where is the victim?' he asked Friday.

Prosecutors, though, say Bader far exceeded reasonable limits when Lodi police found 147 plants growing in his Lodi home.

California law allows those with medical marijuana prescriptions to grow the plants, but prosecutors maintain that Bader went over the limit.

Bader was arrested in May 2001, and a San Joaquin County jury ultimately convicted him of cultivation and possession with intent to sell.

But then an appeals court, citing a misleading jury instruction, threw out the conviction. Bader returns to court Monday, and a final trial date is expected to be set March 28.

Bader, who now lives in Clements, was born and raised in Lodi and has memories of summers spent playing in his family's swimming pool. The pool was a rare thing for most of his Needham School classmates, so Bader had plenty of children to play with.

But, citing family troubles, he dropped out of school when he turned 16.

'I lied about my age, got an apartment and started roofing full-time.'

He got married early and soon became a father. His only daughter, now 29, lives in Oregon.

Three decades of roofing took its toll on his body.

In addition to back troubles, Bader was diagnosed with a soft tissue disease. It was probably caused by breathing silicon dust, he says.

The illness collapsed the arteries in two fingers on his dominant hand, requiring surgery. Then the same thing had to be done on his other hand.

To combat the pain, Bader began medicating himself with marijuana. He got an official medical recommendation from a physician, then decided to grow his own plants.

Though he was tending to more than 100 plants, Bader maintains that they were at different stages of growth and he was only trying to harvest enough to support his needs until the next plants matured.

He isn't sure how much marijuana he smokes daily; it's enough to prevent pain. And he doesn't just smoke it; marijuana works as a seasoning on mashed potatoes for dinner, and it makes for a good night's sleep, Bader says with a smile.

He is gearing up for his trial and, though he has a public defender, has filed his own court motions because he doesn't think his attorney is doing enough. The trial was postponed earlier this year, because the defense wasn't going to hire an expert witness until Bader insisted on it.

Deputy District Attorney Phil Urie, who is prosecuting Bader, was out of the office Friday.

But that's not all Bader has done. He ran for Lodi City Council in 2002 -- getting the least amount of votes of eight candidates.

That's OK by Bader: Though he did no campaigning, he still picked up 838 votes.

Bader's pretty sure that some of the votes came from elderly people who hired him to fix their roofs and were pleased to find him making some additional repairs for them.

For Bader, his case is a battle to prove that marijuana can simply be used as a medicine, and to show that he's no different from other users. Some of his friends have been arrested for growing marijuana, then never prosecuted because they had prescriptions.

He'd also like to see officials refocus their efforts on fighting drugs such as methamphetamine -- a substance he's seen ruin lives.

And, he'd like to see marijuana be a legal drug so that more people could use it to fight off pain.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

 


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