A first person account by Ben Livingston, Cannabis Defense
April 8, 2009 -- Port Orchard Independent (WA)
Kitsap Prosecutor Drops Medical Pot Charges
By Charlie Bermant, Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
The Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office announced Wednesday afternoon it has dropped criminal charges against a local medical marijuana patient.
Olalla resident Glenn Musgrove, 56, was accused of unlawful use of a building for drug purposes. A WestNET report said that one of Musgrove's neighbors reported the marijuana grown for medicinal treatment was being sold for profit.
Musgrove's caregivers, David May and Jena Milo, were also facing prosecution.
All charges were dismissed.
"After looking over the case, we've decided we will not proceed," said Felony and Juvenile Division Chief Tim Drury. "We do not think we can convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
Musgrove was arrested in March 2008. Many of the details gathered in the charging document originated from a confidential informant, but WestNET assembled financial data about Musgrove, his brother and his caregivers that suggested an illegal drug operation.
This would have been the second high-visibility medical marijuana case in Kitsap this spring, following that of Olalla resident Bruce Olson, who was acquitted on March 24 of similar charges.
Clayton Longacre, who is representing Musgrove, was not immediately available for comment.
The previous trial drew medical marijuana advocates from throughout the northwest, who provided support for Olson during his trial.
Most had promised the same support for Musgrove.
Alexis Foster, who prosecuted Olson and was also assigned to the Musgrove trial, said shortly before the announcement that the case was sound and could be proven.
Foster said the prosecution was not based on the use of medical marijuana, but was proceeding because her office believed both Olson and Musgrove had broken the law.
Olson was a certified medical marijuana patient at the time of his arrest, but was accused of selling his crop to others.
Foster said she was not sure Musgrove was authorized to receive the drug, but felt he was also engaged in activity that did not conform to the law.
"Medical marijuana is not the issue here," she said. "We prosecute these cases because we feel the law has been broken."
Drury said Musgrove's illness -- he is a quadriplegic and must be transported on a gurney -- contributed to the prosecution's belief in its ability to win the case.
Longacre said Musgrove's condition was the result of a back injury and subsequent medical malpractice.
Longacre previously argued that Musgrove was being prosecuted "so the county can get their hands on his settlement money."
Musgrove appeared in the courthouse at the same time as the Olson trial for a hearing in his own case, and was wheeled into the courtroom with his face covered.
This caused some observers to conclude that a dead body was being moved through the courthouse.
Musgrove appeared by telephone in a hearing on March 27 in front of Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton. Another telephonic hearing was slated for April 17 and the trial was scheduled to begin in May.
Cannabis Defense Coalition spokesperson Pam Haney, one of the activists observing the trial, said she expected the charges to be dismissed since they were "ludicrous."
Haney said changing attitudes in general could mobilize voters to defeat candidates who support restrictive marijuana laws and waste money on their prosecution.
Throughout the Olson trial, the Prosecutor's Office was consistently criticized for continuing the case, alleging that it represented the injudicious use of taxpayer's money.
A public disclosure request by the Port Orchard Independent to determine case costs was addressed by Drury, who said the office does not track its time with regard to individual cases, so it was not possible to quantify the specific expense.
Drury said the only ancillary expense for the case was $2,406.78 spent to transport witness Steven Kenney so he could testify against Olson.
This money comes from an expert witness fund that is assembled from criminal funds and is not at the taxpayer's expense, according to Drury.
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Charlie Bermant can be reached at email@example.com or (360) 876-4414.
March 26, 2009: Olson Acquittal Media
Congratulations to Bruce Olson for standing his ground against the Goliath that is the Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office. Few medical marijuana patients go "all the way" in Kitsap County -- two years of fear, stress, and financial duress can wear down even the hardiest of defendants.
It cost him his home. It cost him his life savings. It took a toll on his health, and cost immeasurable personal and family strife. It is hard to say Bruce won, given all that. But we will say it. Bruce Olson beat Kitsap County. Congratulations, Bruce, you make us proud!
We've listed a slew of news articles about the Olson case on our web site:
Also at that page, one may view the CDC's balance sheet for our courtroom support project on this case. We spent about $2940 on this case (mostly for lodging), and we've fundraised $2305 from five people.
That means we're $605 in the hole. If you would like to help
fill in that gap, please send a check, money order, or well-concealed
cash to CDC, PO Box 45622, Seattle, WA 98145. Online donations
March 24, 2009 -- Port Orchard Independent (WA)
Kitsap Medical Marijuana Defendant Acquitted
By Charlie Bermant, Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
A medical marijuana patient being prosecuted in Kitsap County Superior Court for drug trafficking was found not guilty on Tuesday morning, after a jury ruled that his use of the drug was within the law.
The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before finding Bruce Olson, 54, not guilty.
The prosecution acknowledged the verdict, while maintaining that the case had nothing to do with the treatment itself. Instead, it had to do whether defendant Bruce Wayne Olson was selling the homegrown drug for profit.
"Each county is struggling to understand what is an appropriate amount of marijuana for medical use," said Defense Attorney Thomas Balerud. "The prosecutors should look to the will of the public to determine this. In this case, the jury spoke its mind and determined that no lawyers should be able to overrule a doctor's judgement."
Prosecutor Alexis Foster said this was not a precedent-setting case and would not affect how such violations are prosecuted in the future.
"This was never about medical marijuana," she said. "We believed it was an illegal manufacturing case, and that the defendant was breaking the law. We will continue to prosecute anything we believe to be a distribution site."
Balerud positioned the case as a test of medical marijuana use, boiled down to the testimony of two witnesses: Steven Kenney for the prosecution, a former drug user who witnessed Olson's drug dealing, and Dr. Thomas Orvald, a cardiac surgeon who has approved medical marijuana patients in several states.
Balerud attempted to balance the witnesses, asking jurors whether they found a doctor to have more or less credibility than a former addict who could not supply specific details. Foster disagreed with this characterization, saying that Kenney was experienced in the world he was describing and was able to recognize and testify about illegal activity.
Foster later told the jury that Kenney's testimony was weak "because he was nervous."
More on this story as it develops.
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Charlie Bermant can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (360) 876-4414.
March 20, 2009: Below is an article from the Port Orchard Independent about the ongoing Kitsap v. Olson trial. A jury is expected to return a verdict in the case on Monday, March 23.
It's laughable that the elected Kitsap County Prosecutor, Russ Hauge, refers to medical marijuana supporters as "a well-organized lobby whose purpose is to see the laws changed." It's not that we simply want him to obey our state law! And never mind that Russ Hauge has for many years run a "well-organized" and costly campaign to weaken our medical marijuana law and terrorize Kitsap medical patients! He is just DOING HIS JOB.
On Wednesday, during the Olson trial, we learned of yet another medical marijuana case Russ Hauge is prosecuting. The man, a quadripligic patient named Glenn Musgrove, was wheeled into court ON A GURNEY. At some point before his hearing, Mr. Musgrove indicated he was cold, so the blanket was drawn over his face, causing passers by to mistake him for a cadaver.
His attorney, Lorne Grier, said he knew of us because of last week's "jury tainting" foolishness, and refused to discuss any details of the case for fear of judicial reprisal. The case number is 08-1-00937-6 and was filed last August. A status hearing is scheduled for March 27, and we hope to find courtroom observers who can bear witness and gather data.
March 19, 2009 -- Port Orchard Independent (WA)
Medical Pot Trial Draws Activists To Kitsap
By Charlie Bermant, Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
The trial of an Olalla man accused of exceeding the allowable limit for medical marijuana is finishing its second week, and is drawing attention from throughout the state.
Bruce Olson, 54, is an approved medical marijuana patient who has four ailments that qualify him for such treatment, according to an expert witness for the defense.
Still, Olson was charged with illegal possession of marijuana with the intent to sell when Kitsap County detectives found 48 plants in a growing operation in May 2007.
Both Olson and his wife are medical marijuana patients, but have faced the same distribution charge. The law about acceptable quantities of medical marijuana has been more strictly defined since Pamela Olson.s trial.
Pamela Olson is now serving probation, having pleaded out to avoid jail time. As part of her sentence, she is not using the medical marijuana that she claims is necessary to ease her pain.
The case has become a flashpoint for medical marijuana advocates, or what Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge characterizes as "a well-organized lobby whose purpose is to see the laws changed."
Approximately two dozen people, mostly advocates or medical marijuana patients, are observing the trial and showing their support.
About 15 of them have taken residency in a local bed-and-breakfast, doubling up on rooms while they attend every minute of the trial.
One attendee, Ellen Van Bockern of Maple Valley, was attending for personal reasons, since she hoped to begin a grow operation for a sick friend.
"I want to grow marijuana legally," she said. "If they get off, then I can start my own operation and help my friend."
Attendees maintained the law was wrong, and that Olson was being singled out for special treatment. A common argument is that governments who prosecute these crimes are wasting taxpayer money.
"Kitsap County doesn.t have a lot of money," said patient Steve Elliott, a Kingston resident. "This prosecution is wasting money left and right. And if they are prosecuting Bruce, then they can come after me."
Hauge takes issue with the blanket assumption of Olson.s innocence, saying that the prosecutor has enough evidence to convict.
Otherwise, they would not be pursuing the case.
"This is not a special case," he said. "We have not singled anyone out. If someone meets the medical marijuana criteria, we will not prosecute them. But if someone uses the medical marijuana status to justify recreational use or selling for profit, we will prosecute."
In response to the activists. contention that tax money was being unnecessarily wasted, the Port Orchard Independent filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to quantify the cost of the Olsons. prosecutions.
Hauge said that his office would not be able to supply such detailed information.
"We had no special expenditures for this case," he said. "We didn.t fly in any expert witnesses, and the prosecutor isn.t getting paid overtime. But we don.t keep records on that level, as to how many hours are spent on a particular case."
Prosecutor Alexis Foster grilled the witnesses on details, asking yes-or-no questions that the witnesses could not or would not provide.
She attempted to disqualify Dr. Thomas Orvald, who issued Olson.s medicinal marijuana recommendation as an expert witness, a motion Superior Court Judge Leila Mills denied.
In separate questions Foster asked Orvald whether marijuana was habit forming and if it could be abused, requesting a yes or no answers. He eventually affirmed both assertions, but without using the word "yes."
Foster then pressed Orvald about details of his income, which prompted defense attorney Thomas Balerud to object, "Dr. Orvald is not being prosecuted for tax fraud, so I think we should move on to something more substantial."
Orvald testified that Olson suffered from four ailments, each of which qualified him for medical marijuana treatment.
Orvald said he sees patients about once a year, at which time he approves or declines another year of treatment. And while many patients initially try to fool him into providing marijuana for recreational use, most current patients are approved for an extension.
Orvald testified throughout Wednesday afternoon. The defense was scheduled to continue on Thursday.
Closing arguments are expected on Monday or Tuesday.
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Charlie Bermant can
be reached at email@example.com
or (360) 876-4414
March 13, 2009 -- Kitsap Sun (WA)
Kitsap County Jury Hears Arguments in Medical Marijuana Trial
By Josh Farley
PORT ORCHARD -- The trial of an Olalla man authorized to use marijuana as medicine but charged with illegally growing and intending to sell it began Friday, nearly two years after police raided his home and seized his plants.
Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Alexis Foster defined the state's case against Bruce Olson, 54, as straightforward. But Thomas A. Balerud, Olson's attorney, characterized it as far more intricate.
"This is a pretty simple case with some very simple facts," Foster told jurors during opening arguments.
"I would say it's very complex," Balerud told them later.
Olson is charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver it. Foster said drug detectives found 48 marijuana plants in an underground bunker at the Olsons' home.
Balerud said his client wasn't living at the home when the raid took place in May 2007. He also argued that both Olson and his wife, Pamela, were authorized by a doctor to grow and use marijuana.
Balerud said the prosecution's case relies on the word of a police informant who told West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team detectives that he had seen Olson sell marijuana. The defense attorney said he will call witnesses who will refute that claim and also testify that such an encounter could have never occurred.
Foster said detectives found evidence that Olson was living there, including a prescription dated just days before the raid. But Balerud said the couple, who were going through marital issues, were living separately and that Bruce only "rarely" visited his wife at the home.
Balerud said Bruce Olson suffers from numerous ailments that warrant his use of marijuana to relieve pain, including Hepatitis C spinal, fractures, ruptured discs, a defective hip and Barrett's disease. Some of his injuries came from a lifetime of work as a stone mason, he told jurors.
The trial is expected to last until March 25. It started Monday, but has been slowed down by Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Leila Mills' decision to throw out the first jury because a medical marijuana activist was outside the courtroom with a sign promoting the cause. Foster objected on grounds that the presence of the protester might taint the jurors.
Pamela Olson also was charged after the police raid. She was not allowed to use the medical marijuana law as defense because a judge ruled that her doctor should have told her what her 60-day supply allowable under law was; instead, she apparently decided for herself. She pleaded guilty and was given 60 days of house arrest in May 2008.
Bruce Olson's case has attracted a following among medical marijuana patients, said JoAnna McKee, a former Bainbridge Island resident and director of Seattle-based Green Cross, a patient network. She described the proceedings as a "circus."
March 11, Port Orchard -- Jury selection started yesterday in the continuing medical marijuana prosecution of Bruce Olson. Fifty jurors were called in, and 21 were excused for hardship or because they couldn't remain impartial.
Today, all 29 jurors were called back, and 20 new potential jurors were brought in. At some point, an Oregon activist was standing near the court room with a sign that read "Stop arresting medical marijuana patients." The prosecutor argued that this had "tainted" the jury pool, and the judge agreed. All 49 jurors were dismissed.
The prosecutor told the judge that this was the same image she saw on the web site of a marijuana activism group (http://cdc.coop), she believed the spectators in the court were connected to the group, and she wanted to know who owns the web site. (The medical marijuana stop sign image has been used for ten years by various groups; the CDC simply borrowed it.)
Because of this melee, the court is bringing in 65 new jurors tomorrow morning, and the trial has been delayed. The new schedule:
THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 9AM: Jury selection redux.
Please, please, please consider bearing witness to this travesty of justice. You won't believe the lengths to which the prosecutor threatens witnesses and members of the public. You won't believe how much marijuana there is. You won't believe that the Olsons are legitimate patients and had NO USABLE MARIJUANA. You won't believe that Kitsap County is spending many thousands of dollars EVERY DAY to prosecute this case.
So please, consider taking some time from your schedule and offer it to this medical marijuana patient in the form of court room observation.
What: Kitsap County v. Bruce Olson: Prosecution's Case
March 10, Port Orchard -- The biggest news from the medical marijuana persecution that is Kitsap County v. Bruce Olson was the court's ruling that the definition of "usable marijuana" would be as the Washington State Department of Health defined that term in Chapter 246-75 of the Washington Administrative Code. This definition states that the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant constitute "usable marijuana." The prosecution had filed a (specious) motion to replace the existing definition of that term with the definition of "marijuana" in 69.50.101, which includes everything save "mature stalks."
The next biggest news -- which was bigger with the water content, and with the stalks, and maybe with the root balls -- was the marijuana! The marijuana came to court! We saw the marijuana! It was in a BIG box, about 2x2x3, all taped in EVIDENCE EVIDENCE EVIDENCE tape. The evidence guy cut the tape, opened the box, and inside the box was ... about two inches high of decomposed leaf material and large stems.
Oh my god, this is the marijuana? Wait. This is the marijuana? Holy crap. This is anticlimatic. I mean, when I heard 19 pounds of marijuana from 48 plants with NO FLOWERS, I thought, "(19*16)/48=6.33 ounces per plant." That math doesn't make sense in the world of marijuana plants.
But then I saw the marijuana. And then, color pictures of the marijuana came to court! They showed the marijuana plants pulled out, with the root balls and all. Then they showed the marijuana plants with the root balls cut off. Then the marijuana with the stalks cut off. Then Kitsap detectives trimmed all the "usable marijuana," which was the leaves and stems of non-flowering plants, and they took photos of that marijuana in a large box. The very same box of marijuana that came to court today! And in the photo it looked like the box was three quarters full of marijuana leaves and stems, and it didn't look compressed at all -- the pack was light and fluffy.
So wait? This whole thing is about this box of marijuana? Are you fucking kidding me? Two years of this? You convicted Pam Olson over this? I'm sitting in court all day with five to ten people BEING PAID BY KITSAP COUNTY -- the judge, the clerk, the typing person, the prosecutor, the law clerk, occasionally 1-3 additional people from the prosecutors office watching, the detective, the evidence guy, the 1-2 public defenders assigned to the threatened witnesses -- and THIS is the marijuana? Um, I'm not gonna get on a righteous WTF rant, I'll just ask, did Kitsap prosecutors think they could convince a jury to convict legitimate medical marijuana patients (this is not in dispute) for a half pound of marijuana leaves and stems? Not only that, did they think they could do it with only the word of a questionable confidential informant paid by the WestNET federal drug task force? Eek!
So ya, the marijuana came to court. And then it left. The CDC got a court-approved up-close look, as the defense unexpectedly called Ben out for consultation in viewing the marijuana, as he didn't know what he was looking at, and his expert witness wasn't in court until tomorrow. "Who, me?" he said with a deer-like stare.
The expert witness was debated today. The court ultimately ruled that Paul Stanford, director of the THCF medical marijuana clinic, could testify as an expert about marijuana cultivation. Mr. Stanford may not testify about marijuana as it relates to medical ailments, as he is not a doctor nor degreed, and he may not testify about the chemistry of marijuana, as he is no scientist.
The cantankerous tone continued somewhat today. After a recess to ask questions of the county official who tested the marijuana, and who also brought the marijuana to court -- did I mention how exciting that was? -- which came shortly after we came back from the recess to view the marijuana, the judge spent fifteen minutes lecturing the attorneys. She brought in a plaque from her wall with some tenants of lawyerly conduct -- a task she'd never before undertaken -- and read through them completely, chastised the lawyers some, then read through them again. Then she put both lawyers on notice that she was ready and willing to issue contempt orders should they not make nice at trial. The fine is $500, she told them -- and said there are other potential penalties that the lawyers well know.
All that before lunch. Now it's back to court to start jury selection. Please consider coming out to Port Orchard, Washington, which is 30 miles from Tacoma out Highway 16. The prosecution starts it's case tomorrow, Wednesday, March 11 at 1:30 p.m.
What: Kitsap County v. Bruce Olson: Prosecution's Case
March 9 -- Today's medical marijuana trial was filled with objection and argument, and the judge angrily recessed many times. Kitsap County prosecutors threatened multiple defense witnesses with criminal prosecution, and attempted to disuade or forbid all defense witnesses from testifying.
Pam Olson was charged by Kitsap prosecutors last year and plead guilty to manufacture of marijuana for the exact same medical marijuana grow. The prosecutor repeated throughout today's hearing that Kitsap County reserves the right to bring at least four new charges against her, including maintaining a home for the purpose of growing marijuana, marijuana posession, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, etc.
Prosecutor Alexis Foster (WSBA #37032) used the same threatening tactics against defense witness Jody Bonn. Mr. Bonn took the stand with his court-appointed attorney by his side, answered a very few personal questions, and proceeded to take the fifth on every question asked, in an hour-long, objection-and-argument-filled scene.
Threats didn't just come from the prosecutor. At one point the sharp and short-tempered Leila Mills informed the defense attorney that he would face "serious consequences" if he asked questions at trial to which the witnesses had already taken the fifth. Judge Mills got super mad at the defense attorney for pointing his finger at her, warning him once and abruptly recessing and storming out of court the second time.
Pam Olson was cross-examined twice today by prosecutors, in a somewhat bizarre "practice trial" to see which questions two defense witnesses might take the fifth on. The "mini trial," as the defense called it in objection, was concluded before the lunch recess, but the prosecutor came back after lunch with more questions she wanted to ask. She was allowed to again pepper Mrs. Olson with questions, the whole time standing six feet from the witness and inching ever closer. The whole affair seemed a bit odd.
The so-called "medical marijuana bible" was a hot topic of debate today! The defense produced a copy of Jorge Cervantes book "Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible," which was objected, debated, loaned to Kitsap County, and may have a ruling soon from a Washington State judge on whether it is or is not, quote, "a learned treatise." At times it felt hard to contain one's smile, but fear of the judge's wrath helped with that.
The authorizing doctor was also discussed at length. Dr. Thomas Orvald from The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation was portrayed as a difficult and busy witness. Prosecutor Foster traveled to his Bellevue clinic last Friday, with two sheriff's detectives in tow, to do a pre-trial interview. That never happened, however, as Dr. Orvald was late, then indicated that they would do the interview at a hotel conference room near the clinic. The prosecutor told the court that she was concerned for her safety, "given the feelings of the medical marijuana community about this case." Dr. Orvald was scheduled to appear Wednesday at 1:30, but Judge Mills ordered him to appear at noon for an interview with prosecutors -- an order backed up by the threat of arrest.
Prosecutors are trying to exclude testimony from Paul Stanford, the director of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, claiming he is not an expert in the science of marijuana. The defense is to produce evidence to the contrary by tomorrow morning. The THCF clinic is the source of the information the Olson's relied upon to determine how they could comply with the law.
A final defense witness was ordered to consult with a public defender, after the prosecutor indicated she would question him about all kinds of potentially incriminating things should he testify. The particular witness was alleged by the paid confidential informant -- the seemingly not-so-upstanding Mr. Kenny -- to have purchased marijuana from Bruce Olson when the two were driving home from work. Problem is their employer says they weren't employed until three months after WestNET raided the Olsons. Mr. Kenny, who claims to have damaged his brain with drugs and alcohol, apparently has a bad memory.
The prosecution brought several more "in limine" motions late today. The court will take up tomorrow whether to define "usable marijuana" as the definition of "marijuana" found in RCW 69.50.101, which includes "all parts of the plant" except mature stalks. Never mind that the Department of Health rule -- WAC 246-75-010 -- specifically defines "usable marijuana" as the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. CDC vollies actually helped track down the relevant data through the defense attorney's cell phone and secretary. (Go team!)
It was a long, vehement day. Tomorrow begins at 9 a.m. at the Kitsap County Courthouse, 614 Division St. in Port Orchard, Washington. Your presence is requested. Please tell a friend, especially if they live on the Kitsap Peninsula.
What: Kitsap County v. Bruce Olson, trial week
Cannabis Defense Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit member cooperative focused on marijuana activism in Washington State. To sign up for free email alerts, go to http://cdc.coop/.