Medical marijuana advocate pleads guilty in Las Vegas

August 14, 2006

Associated Press, Las Vegas Sun

A medical marijuana advocate accepted a plea deal with prosecutors to a felony charge of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, ending a trial that had been seen as a test of Nevada's medical marijuana program.

Pierre Werner, 35, pleaded guilty in Clark County District Court on Monday to the charge in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to drop four other felony drug charges.

"They made me an offer I couldn't refuse," Werner said.

Werner faces up to four years in prison but said he is confident District Judge Valerie Adair will sentence him to probation at an October hearing.

"I'm no robber or killer," Werner said.

"I was hoping they would have no problem with me doing my probation in Amsterdam. I was hoping to move there within a week of my sentencing. I'd like to leave for Amsterdam or for California."

Marijuana is sold legally in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and California's medical marijuana program allows patients to possess larger amounts than Nevada's program.

Clark County prosecutor Roy Nelson confirmed he will ask Adair to send Werner to prison.

"He is unemployed, and all he does is sell drugs within the community," Nelson said.

Werner's court case tested whether those alleged to be abusers of the state's medical marijuana program would be prosecuted criminally.

Nevada voters in 2000 gave approval for the use of the drug in the state for medical purposes. Under Nevada law, licensed marijuana patients can keep an ounce of marijuana to treat doctor-diagnosed medical conditions. Those licensed by the Nevada Department of Agriculture can grow seven marijuana plants, but only three can be mature. Also, they are allowed to sell the drug to one other patient.

Werner was criminally charged in 2004 after authorities said he possessed far more marijuana than was legally allowed.

In October 2004, police said they found 2 ounces of marijuana and nearly three dozen plants at Werner's home.

Werner was arrested and released. He was arrested again on four more felony counts stemming from allegations he possessed 100 plants at his Las Vegas residence in a separate incident.

Werner said he uses the drug because he is bipolar and schizophrenic. He also said he grows marijuana to sell it to other ill people who otherwise would not be able to gain access to the drug.

"If a licensed physician gives you permission to use medical marijuana and you are unable to grow your own, then I feel as a medical marijuana patient, I should be able to share this medicine," Werner said.

Ed Foster, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, suggested Werner's licensing status in the medical marijuana program was in jeopardy.

"You can't have a medical marijuana card with a felony drug conviction," Foster said.

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