Medical Marijuana Growers in High Desert Fighting Charges

January 23, 2008

Jason Sloss, KESQ ABC TV (Palms Springs)

An older couple in the high desert will appear in court after being arrested for growing and possessing of marijuana.

They say, as medical marijuana patients, they did nothing wrong.

Richard McCabe, 65, and his wife JoAnn, 74, have used medical marijuana for nearly 10 years to treat their arthritis and chronic pain.

They say in all that time they never ran into legal trouble, until last August.

"I seen them coming up the road, went in and woke up my wife," Richard recalls the time the couple was visited by authorities. "I said ‘I think we're going to get raided here.'"

According to the McCabes, San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies came to their door guns drawn with a search warrant for stolen property.

They say there was no stolen property to be found but deputies did take the pot plants they were growing.

"They just started jerking the plants and taking them," Richard says. "That was all our medicine. They didn't leave us anything at all and took us to jail. Handcuffed us and took us to jail."

"I'd never been arrested before," JoAnn recalled. "It was very scary...I didn't know what was going to happen when we got to jail."

The McCabes say they were brought to the Morongo Basin Jail and spent about three hours behind bars before they were bailed out by their children.

They face charges and, if convicted, could spend up to three years in jail.

Medical marijuana advocate Lanny Swardlow says it's absurd that patients in San Bernardino County aren't offered the same deal as patients in Riverside County, who are able to buy ID cards to protect them from being arrested.

"They could've cited them and taken their plants and that would be the end of it," Swardlow says. "They had to handcuff them, take them to jail as if to send a message to other great grandparents out there that are thinking about using medical marijuana for arthritis.

"They better think twice. This is insanity."

The McCabes await their day in court, but they say they can't afford an attorney.

The owners of the Copykatz Showroom in Palm Springs is organizing a fundraiser in February to help pay for their defense.

The McCabes say they're grateful for that and ready to continue fighting for the rights of medical marijuana patients.

News Channel 3 attempted to reach the prosecuting attorney in the case but our calls went unreturned.

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