Judge lets Temecula couple regain their drug-related items

December 21, 2004

Tim O\'Leary, Press-Enterprise

FRENCH VALLEY - A pair of Temecula medical marijuana advocates won a court order Tuesday for the return of their drug-related items, but not the pot or marijuana seeds that were seized in a raid more than three years ago.

Martin and La Vonne Victor said they were pleased to win the return of glass smoking pipes, a scale, a marijuana cultivation book and other items.

But they noted that the continuing legal debate over the medical use of cannabis, as well as Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask's position on medical marijuana, might someday leave them vulnerable to new criminal charges.

"We're hoping, but with Grover, you never know," said Martin Victor, who recalled the couple's three-year legal battle and about $30,000 spent on legal and court fees to win a reduction of charges filed against them on suspicion of marijuana use and distribution.

Victor, 52, noted that Trask earlier this month penned a newspaper guest column that criticized such uses of marijuana, cited research of potential health risks and called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn laws in California and 10 other states that allow marijuana for patients with severe chronic pain.

Deputy District Attorney Quinn Baranski was circumspect after the hearing about the Victors' legal prospects should they continue smoking and eating marijuana as medicine.

"Anybody can get prosecuted. You or I can get prosecuted," Baranski said as he walked back to his office after the hearing in the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

Baranski did not oppose the Victors' motion over the drug paraphernalia, which was granted by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael S. Hider.

Nearly 8 pounds of marijuana buds and seeds that were at the heart of the case would not be returned, Baranski said, because the plant is illegal to possess.

The Victors, who moved to Temecula in 1990, originally were charged with felony counts of marijuana cultivation and distribution. Their case ended in December 2003 when Martin Victor pleaded guilty to providing less than an ounce of marijuana to a roommate, who Victor said took it without his knowledge or consent. He paid a $100 fine, and all charges were dropped against his wife.

Had the Victors been convicted of the original charges, they could have been sentenced to 32 months in prison.

Martin Victor suffers from cluster headaches, the result of progressive eye disease. His wife, who appeared in court Tuesday in a wheelchair, suffers from multiple sclerosis, emphysema, panic attacks and compressed vertebrae in her back. Both smoke marijuana, eat it raw and cook with it to ease their symptoms.

The couple started a cannabis acceptance project in January at a community forum at the Temecula Public Library.

They say there is growing use of the drug by area residents who have a doctor's prescription.

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