Man fighting drug charge with medical marijuana defense

April 22, 2006

Associated Press, Billings Gazette (MT)

A California man plans to challenge a drug charge using Montana's medical marijuana law as a defense.

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Deputy County Attorney Brad Newman labeled Gary Ashley's dismissal request as frivolous.

"We're not talking about medical marijuana in this case," Newman said. "There was more than four pounds of marijuana found in that house.

Ashley, 58, of Corning, Calif., was arrested in December along with Eugene Bonfiglio, 40, and Lisa M. Cook 38. All are charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Officers seized 4.25 pounds of marijuana and drug paraphernalia from Bonfiglio's house, court records said.

Bonfiglio and Cook have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Ashley seeks dismissal of the charge and says he has a California-issued card that allows him to keep marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Montana American Civil Liberties Union has filed a brief in the case stating that Ashley is compliant with the Montana Medical Marijuana Act.

Montana became the 10th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use in November 2004. Under the act, doctors may prescribe marijuana for those suffering from chronic or debilitating disease.

Newman said he will object to the ACLU's brief being entered into the case.

Ashley's trial is set for May 2, but most likely will be postponed while the judge reviews his dismissal request, Newman said.

Newman said he believes this is the first time someone has used the medical marijuana defense in the state since the law was enacted two years ago.



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