Texas Patient Wins Landmark Acquittal in Medical Marijuana Case
March 27, 2008
(Long Island, N.Y.) A Texas patient who uses medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of HIV won acquittal on marijuana possession charges March 25 based on a “necessity defense.” Though such a defense – which requires the defendant to establish that an otherwise illegal act was necessary to avoid imminent harm more serious than the harm prevented by the law he or she broke – has rarely been successful in Texas, the jury took just 11 minutes to acquit Tim Stevens, 53. The trial was hotly contested.
Stevens had never been in trouble until Amarillo police arrested him for possessing less than 4 grams of marijuana. As a result of his HIV infection, Stevens suffers from nausea and cyclical vomiting syndrome, a condition so severe that he has required hospitalization and blood transfusions in the past.
Extensive research has established medical marijuana as an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting associated with HIV/AIDS and cancer chemotherapy, uses recently acknowledged by the prestigious American College of Physicians. Key in establishing Stevens’ medical necessity was the testimony of Dr. Steve Jenison, medical director of the Infectious Diseases Bureau for the state of New Mexico’s Department of Health.
“This case proved to be a testing ground for public attitudes toward medical marijuana,” said attorney Jeff Blackburn, who represented Stevens. “Even in a very conservative part of a very conservative state, jurors were willing to listen to the facts about medical marijuana and give Tim a break, and I hope this case will help to create a trend in Texas.”
“The common sense and decency exhibited by this Amarillo jury is typical of what we see from voters around the country,” said Ray Warren, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., and a former North Carolina Superior Court judge. “The American public doesn’t want to see seriously ill patients arrested and jailed for simply trying to stay alive with the help of medical marijuana. It’s time for legislators in Texas and around the country to follow the public’s lead and take action to protect patients, so that no one battling a life-threatening illness has to live in fear of arrest.”
With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.