Prosecutor drops medical pot challenge
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
EAST WENATCHEE — A city court misdemeanor charging a motorist with marijuana possession, despite his medical authorization for the drug, has been dropped.
Saúl Ramos Sanchez, 19, of Rock Island paid $250 in costs Wednesday in East Wenatchee Municipal Court. In return, city prosecutor Devin Poulson dropped the sole charge against Ramos of possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana.
Ramos’s case escalated last year from a simple traffic stop to a court challenge to his status as a medical marijuana user, with Poulson demanding his doctor’s records and arguing Ramos couldn’t invoke his patient status as a defense at trial.
Ramos’s public defense attorney, Kambra Mellergaard, said the deal leaves Ramos with a clean record. The case was due to go to trial before Municipal Court Judge Chancey Crowell on Friday.
Crowell had initially granted Poulson’s early motion to deny Ramos’s medical defense, but reversed himself later on a challenge from Mellergaard.
“I was confident except for the fact we had decided a long time ago to have this heard before the judge, and the judge has already ruled against us,” Mellergaard said Wednesday. “Plus, if he can get a dismissal without going through all that, that’s for the best.”
Ramos, a nursery worker, suffered a back injury in March that he said was only relieved by a combination of cannabis-based muscle ointments and smoked marijuana. He was stopped June 22 by East Wenatchee police for turning into the inside lane of travel, rather than the outside, while pulling onto Valley Mall Parkway.
Ramos told Officer James Johnson he had a small baggie of cannabis in his glove box and showed his medical card, signed by East Wenatchee physician Dr. Robert Anderson. Johnson did not ticket him for the illegal turn, but confiscated the baggie and cited him for misdemeanor possession.
Washington law allows patients with “terminal or debilitating medical conditions” and written authorization from their doctors to possess up to 24 ounces of marijuana without fear of arrest. It also offers an “affirmative defense,” nullifying prosecution if a defendant meets all the requirements of the law.
If convicted, Ramos would have faced a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The young Mexican immigrant had also worried that a conviction or guilty plea could affect his visa status.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123
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