Maui Man sentenced; now has permit to grow medical marijuana

January 30, 2004

LILA FUJIMOTO, The Maui News

WAILUKU - After being arrested last year for growing marijuana in his back yard, a Kihei man will be allowed to legally cultivate the drug as long as he follows requirements of his medical marijuana permit.
 
Brian D. Onwiler, 36, was placed on five years' probation Tuesday, with 2nd Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto also ordering the defendant not to consume or possess alcohol or illegal drugs - with the exception of what's allowed under Onwiler's state medical marijuana permit.
 
Raffetto noted that the permit has strict requirements.
 
Under state law, seriously ill people can obtain such permits to grow, possess and use marijuana with a doctor's approval. A permit limits users to possessing three mature marijuana plants and four immature plants at any time.
 
Onwiler didn't have a medical marijuana permit when police vice officers raided his residence on Kupuna Street at 4:20 p.m. on May 28, where they found 26 marijuana plants, dried marijuana and a marijuana grower's guide book.
 
'He has since been able to get the certified medical marijuana card,' said Deputy Public Defender Wendy Hudson. 'He now can legally possess smaller amounts of marijuana than what they found at his house.'
 
She said Onwiler had been a medic in the Air Force and worked as a licensed practical nurse before he suffered a brain injury that caused him to lapse into a coma for 10 days in November 2002.
 
'When he came out, he wasn't the same person mentally, physically or emotionally,' Hudson said.
 
She said Onwiler hoped to resume a carpentry/remodeling business once he is released from jail, where he has been confined for about three months.
'He's lost his house, he lost his dog, he lost his car,' she said.
 
Hudson asked the judge to limit Onwiler's jail term to the time he has already served.
 
But Deputy Prosecutor Mark Simonds argued for a six-month jail term that the prosecution could seek under terms of a plea agreement.
Onwiler had pleaded no contest to first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.
 
At first, he was charged with second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana because police officers recovered 5 pounds of the drug in the search, Simonds said. But he said the charge was changed to reflect the dried weight of little more than 2 pounds. The amount still indicated that Onwiler was growing the drug for more than personal use, Simonds said.
 
He said Onwiler's criminal history includes convictions for cocaine possession in Kansas in 1989, for second-degree assault in 1991 and for DUI in 1997.
 
On Nov. 5, while he was awaiting trial in the marijuana case, Onwiler was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol after being seen crossing the center line and swerving off the road to avoid a collision in Makena, court records show.
 
'This defendant has sent a message to this court that he does not care enough about his substance-abuse problem to seek treatment,' Simonds said.
Hudson said Onwiler had spent $5,000 to get treatment through a program but relapsed.
 
Onwiler said he wanted to attend Alcoholics Anonymous classes when he is released from jail.
 
Raffetto ordered a four-month jail term for Onwiler.


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