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October 25, 2006 - Spokesman-Review (WA)

Man With MS Busted For Pot

Cheney Resident Had 79 Plants, Deputies Say

By John Craig, staff writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

A Cheney resident who uses marijuana to relieve his multiple sclerosis has again been charged with manufacturing the drug illegally.

Sam Dean Diana, 57, was convicted in federal court in 1999 along with four other men who helped him grow a large marijuana crop.

Now he and a helper, 43-year-old Gene Arthur Midkiff Jr., are charged in Spokane County Superior Court.

Court documents say sheriff's deputies found 79 marijuana plants growing in Diana's garage and outside his home when the officers went there in July looking for a fugitive.

Diana reportedly gave the deputies permission to enter, and they found the marijuana instead of the fugitive.

There were several other people in the home at 2910 W. Diana Lane, including Midkiff, who allegedly admitted he helped Diana grow marijuana in exchange for a share of the crop. Diana is confined to a wheelchair.

Court documents say Midkiff told deputies he had been Diana's paid caregiver until he was arrested two years ago on a felony drug charge.

Since then, Midkiff reportedly said, he has volunteered his service, living in a trailer next to Diana's home.

Both men had preliminary court appearances this week.

Diana showed the deputies a note from Dr. Walter Balek, of Spokane Valley, indicating Diana suffers from multiple sclerosis and that Balek had discussed therapeutic use of marijuana with Diana.

A state law, passed by initiative in November 1998, says people suffering from certain medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, may have up to a 60-day supply of marijuana if a doctor says it might help.

A caregiver may help grow the marijuana but may not use any of the drug, according to the law.

The law doesn't specify what constitutes a 60-day supply. Nor does it provide any protection from federal drug laws, which make no exception for medicinal use.

Diana and his co-defendants in 1999 faced possible five-year sentences in a federal prison.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents had found 175 marijuana plants, 15 pounds of processed pot, scales, packaging material and $50,000 in cash in Diana's home in December 1997.

Diana was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a year of probation after he pleaded guilty to maintaining a house for drug manufacturing, use and storage. His co-defendants also accepted plea bargains and got similar sentences.

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