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June 5, 2007 - Spokesman-Review (WA)

Surprise Side Effect: Medical Marijuana User, 66, Accused Of Dealing

By Thomas Clouse, Staff writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Meet Christine Rose Baggett, a 66-year-old great-grandmother who was formally charged Monday as a drug dealer in a county with a backlog of narcotics cases.

Baggett, a widow with no criminal record, suffers from two kinds of arthritis, two herniated discs in her back and a broken ankle that hasn't healed properly, she and her attorney said.

Her sight is failing and she has a laundry list of other ailments for which she walks with a cane and uses marijuana for relief.

"I just feel terrible when I take prescription medications," Baggett said. "I don't think I'm out to hurt anybody or have a big grow operation. I'm just out to ease my pain. That's what the whole deal is."

Baggett has since obtained valid documentation for the use of medical marijuana, but the Spokane County prosecutor's office continues to pursue a felony charge against Baggett for the ounce she bought last August from another man.

"We haven't had the opportunity to speak with the prosecutor's office," said Baggett's attorney, Frank Cikutovich. "Based on her age and condition, there could be an equitable resolution short of trial. That's what we are hoping for."

At the hearing Monday before Superior Court Judge Michael Price, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Dianne Doughertysaid the problem in the case was that Baggett "delivered marijuana to the person who was with her in the car. And that is clearly reflected in the probable cause affidavit."

What the court record shows is that Baggett admitted purchasing an ounce of marijuana from a man on Aug. 23 for $180. But she gave some of it back to him "as payment for delivering the marijuana to her."

As they sat in a van parked in the driveway at 907 W. Maxwell Ave., Spokane police detectives Harlan Harden and Greg Lebsock approached. Court records indicate the detectives were at that address for a follow-up on an unrelated case, but the records don't indicate anything more about the other investigation.

The man who sold the marijuana to Baggett "appeared to be hiding something between his legs. Detective Lebsock was concerned for his safety, so he asked (the suspect) to show his hands" and the man was placed under arrest for possession of marijuana, court records state.

Lebsock then asked Baggett if she had any containers in the van. "Baggett replied, 'Yeah, I have a bag full of marijuana in there,' " according to court records.

Cikutovich questions why his client was charged with the felony.

"The allegation is that she bought an ounce and she let (her dealer) keep a little for his troubles. In the discretion of the cops and the prosecutor, she was the drug dealer," he said.

Since Baggett is charged with delivery, she would not qualify for Drug Court, which is designed to help addicts clear their records.

Chief Deputy Criminal Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said the prosecutor's office has made strides in tackling a backlog of property cases, but it continues to lag behind in drug cases.

"It is because both the number of cases versus the number of staff we have to handle them," Driscoll said.

Asked if the Baggett case was an appropriate charging decision given the backlog, Driscoll said. "I would rather you ask the person who signed it up."

Deputy Prosecutor John Grasso approved the charge against Baggett, Driscoll said. Efforts to reach Grasso late Monday were unsuccessful.

At the hearing Monday, Dougherty asked Price to force Baggett to undergo drug testing before her trial, which is scheduled for Aug. 20.

"The state believes monitoring is appropriate," Dougherty said. "The state believes that using marijuana is illegal."

Cikutovich told Price that his client does not intend to stop smoking marijuana. "I just don't want it to be a shock to the court in a week when we are back in here."

"It won't be a shock," Price replied. "I can guarantee you that."

Afterward, Cikutovich told Baggett what to expect.

"If you were my grandma," he told Baggett, "I would say use whatever medication you need and I will fight for you until my dying day."

She thanked him.

"I feel a little violated," she said about her felony charge. "I don't know what to say about it. I just hope it turns out good."

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