Prosecutor: 'Medical marijuana' user was growing to sell

August 10, 2006

Matt Pordum, Court TV

LAS VEGAS — Medical marijuana dispute or simple drug possession case?

A prosecutor trying a Nevada man for felony possession clearly believes it's the latter, and perhaps to illustrate his point, took less than four minutes to deliver his opening statements Wednesday.

Deputy District Attorney Roy Nelson said there is "no question" that 35-year-old Pieree Werner is properly charged and should be convicted for felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.

Werner, however, contends he was within his rights as a licensed medical marijuana user in Nevada not only to grow and possess the pot, but also to sell it to other licensed users in the state.

He rejected an offer by prosecutors to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and instead decided to risk the possibility of a one- to three-year prison sentence if convicted by the jury this week.

Nelson said that officers patrolling Werner's street on Jan. 17, 2004, saw trash cans turned over and damage done to both Werner's car and his neighbor's car.

On that basis, the officers performed a welfare check inside Werner's home and discovered what they "believed were marijuana plants," Nelson said.

After the officers secured a search warrant for both Werner's home and car they returned to find "over 30 mature plants, a scale, venting fan, heating lights and venting hoses."

Nelson said the officers also found "things to grow marijuana and baggies and scales that indicated to them he was selling."

The prosecutor said that, although Werner is licensed to use medical marijuana, state law only allows a licensed user to possess one ounce, three mature plants and four immature plants.

Nelson said the officers found 63.7 grams of cultivated marijuana, which is more than two ounces. The officers also found 34 mature and 11 immature plants.

Werner's attorneys waived their opening statement, but reserved their right to present one before beginning their defense case.

A Las Vegas narcotics detective told jurors "the house was like ransacked" and he "wasn't even sure if anyone lived there or not." Det. Paul Deangelis showed jurors photos of Werner's plants, cultivation tools and copies of High Times magazine allegedly found in Werner's home.

When the detective later arrested Werner, he said he was "incoherent" and in a state that was consistent with someone on drugs. He later refused to pose for his mugshot, so two officers had to hold his head toward the camera, Deangelis said.

The trial is being shown live on Court TV Extra.

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