Aiken: But why should I not be allowed to grow a plant?

December 19, 2007

John Harbin , Hendersonville News-Times (NC)

When Todd Aiken was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2000, he decided to begin growing marijuana to help him face his grueling treatment, he said.

It was no garden variety pot growing operation.

Aiken, 50, and his wife, Sharon, 35, were arrested last week after Henderson County Sheriff's deputies discovered 146 marijuana plants in a mobile home on Jeter Mountain in the Crab Creek community.

Officers found several modifications to the home "specific to creating an environment conducive to growing marijuana" after getting a search warrant for the trailer at 428 Overton Hills Drive.

Aiken said that he used to live at the Overton Hills Drive address but moved to Columbus about three years ago.

"I found out I was sick in 2000," Aiken said. "Finding out I had hepatitis C devastated me. I didn't even know what it was. I did some research online and discovered that it involved very intensive treatments. I sought out people who had done the treatments and discovered many used medicinal marijuana."

Aiken said after doing some more research, he discovered he could grow his own marijuana.

"I furnished myself with the marijuana and I furnished a friend of mine who was suffering from stomach cancer," he said. "It's like this, to me marijuana is not wrong. I did this knowing the government says it's wrong, but why should I not be allowed to grow a plant?"

Sheriff:'Charges are appropriate'

Henderson County Sheriff Rick Davis said there are no provisions in the law at the state level for medical marijuana.

"Claiming it is medical marijuana is not a defense," Davis said. "There are other issues too. The sheer volume being manufactured there would preclude the fact that this operation was for one person. Also, why was this grow done in a covert fashion. It's clearly against the law to manufacture marijuana and the charges are appropriate."

Officers seized 146 marijuana plants with extensive root structures, 70 marijuana plants that were recently harvested and about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of growing materials.

When Aiken was asked why he needed 146 plants, he said that was because the plants were in different stages of growth.

"If I were in this for greed I could have made a great deal of money," Aiken said. "I was not in this for profit. Yes, there was money involved. Call it sales or contributions, but yes people did invest money back into the grow."

Getting through

Aiken said he grew the marijuana in the mobile home in Henderson County to keep it separate from his family.

"I know he needed it," said his wife, Sharon. "My husband was fading away, and if it wasn't for the medical marijuana, he would not be here today."

Aiken and his wife have received help from a local chapter of the Americans for Safe Access, which promotes safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

"Jean Marlowe has started a chapter of Americans for Safe Access and she has been able to point us in the best direction we can go," he said.

Marlowe said she began a Western North Carolina chapter of Americans for Safe Access in Mill Spring on Nov. 30.

"I have put Mr. Aiken in touch with legal counsel for the ASA who can help him," she said. "They will be able to provide him with expert witnesses and those who receive medical marijuana from the federal government."

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