Medical marijuana supporters, defendants rally in Modesto

August 22, 2007

Eve Hightower, Modesto Bee (CA)

Seven people arrested on drug charges stemming from an investigation into an Oakdale medical marijuana dispensary were in court Wednesday. Their arraignments were put off until Sept. 25 so the district attorney has more time to investigate.

On July 31, Michael Cadiz, 32, of Modesto; Addison DeMoura, 33, of Oakdale; Shawn Garvin, 27, of Modesto; Russell Green, 28, of Stockton; Angel Herrera, 32, of Lathrop; Brennan Johnston, 27, of Oakdale; and Joseph Young, 30, of Turlock were arrested after a two-month investigation into the Oakdale Natural Choice Collective.

The collective has closed; everyone arrested is on bail.

An hour before heading to court, DeMoura held a medical marijuana rally outside the Stanislaus County Courthouse.

About 25 people -- defendants and supporters -- hoisted signs saying, "We won't stand for this. God made Cannabis" and other slogans. Signs also stated that Proposition 215, which exempts patients with doctor recommendations from laws that otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana, is not being enforced properly.

Waiting outside court, Garvin said police and the press have treated him unfairly.

"Everyone thinks I'm guilty before even going to court," he said.

Toting an oxygen tank, Garvin said marijuana helps him deal with ailments related to carbon monoxide poisoning that happened while doing electrical work in a warehouse in 2004.

'Two doctor recommendations'

He said the carbon monoxide burned his lungs, leaving him with blood-producing coughs, headaches and occasional seizures. Edible marijuana and a vaporizer have helped him avoid other pain and seizure medications, Garvin said.

"I have two doctor recommendations from two different doctors," Garvin said. "They're prosecuting people needlessly."

Green, who volunteered at the collective and faces charges of growing, processing, transporting and selling marijuana, said he has done nothing wrong and believes in the justice system.

"I was abiding by the law. Justice will be served," he said.

Forced out of town?

Arrests such as the ones on July 31 effectively force dispensaries out of town, which is a shame, said medical marijuana activist Dale Gieringer of Oakland. Gieringer, who received a doctorate from Stanford while studying drug regulation, said law enforcement in the Central Valley has not welcomed dispensaries.

"People are tired of having no access in the Central Valley," he said.

Patients who do not have access to dispensaries have to grow their own plants, drive to Oakland to buy it, or find dealers on the street, said Gieringer, who is the state coordinator of California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a co-founder of the California Drug Policy Reform Coalition and of Californians for Compassionate Use.

"Having a local business with a license is much better because patients have a place that is accountable," he added.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at 578-2382 or ehightower@modbee.com.



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