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Grower found guilty in medical marijuana case

Thursday, January 15, 2004
Heather Woodward
The Olympian, Olympia Washington

A jury found Monica Ginn guilty Wednesday of charges that she grew and distributed marijuana, sparking ire among medical marijuana advocates.
Jurors also decided Ginn, 53, qualifies for a more severe sentence because her growing operation was within 1,000 feet of a designated school bus stop. She faces up to five years in jail, but her attorneys promised to appeal the case as high as the Washington Supreme Court.

Kevin Johnson, Ginn's court- appointed attorney, said he wasn't surprised by the verdict because an earlier ruling by Judge Thomas McPhee forbade him from presenting medical reasons as his client's defense for growing and distributing marijuana, a controlled substance. McPhee found that Ginn, who claims to suffer from chronic back pain, did not meet all of the requirements to justify using that defense.

"With that gutted, there's basically no defense," Johnson said. "I think the verdict was a foregone conclusion."

Ginn was released on her own recognizance pending sentencing after the verdict was read Wednesday. But the state Department of Corrections immediately arrested the Olympia resident on an unrelated failure to appear charge that Johnson said is a mistake.

Ginn admitted growing marijuana for her own use and for a Seattle man with multiple sclerosis, who has since died. She also said she provided marijuana to Green Cross, a patient cooperative that is an advocate for medical marijuana users. But Green Cross representatives denied Wednesday that Ginn worked with the cooperative, which no longer gives marijuana to pain sufferers.

Patients must have a terminal or debilitating medical condition to qualify for medical marijuana, according to state law. Voters passed a medical marijuana initiative in 1998 that led to the state law.

Medical marijuana advocates agree at least 10,000 patients legally use marijuana for medical reasons in Washington, including several hundred in Thurston County. Many suffer from AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal chord injuries, glaucoma or cancer.

"Anybody who can usually grows their own," said Joanna Mckee, Green Cross co-founder and director. "I go along with their doctors. If their doctors say they need help, then I consider them a (medical marijuana) patient."

McPhee ruled that Ginn's chronic back pain was not properly documented by her physician, who had been treating her for a short time and who had done no medical testing.

"I didn't attempt in any way to overrule the doctor," McPhee said. "I took the statute and its elements and determined whether Ms. Ginn could provide sufficient evidence. ... I think I made the right decision under the law."

The jury's verdict Wednesday could make it harder for patients who need marijuana to alleviate pain, advocates said.

"It sends chills down our spines," said Martin Martinez, director of the Seattle-based Lifeline Foundation. "Many of these people have been living in fear for many years, and this only reinforces that fear."

Patients legally using or growing the crop have nothing to fear, county prosecutors said.

"There shouldn't be an effect on people who are growing and using within the law," said Jack Johnson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

© Copyright 2004, The Olympian