More MS news articles for March 2000

Patient to test drug law in court

By Ginny McKibben
Denver Post Staff Writer

March 18 - Multiple sclerosis victim Ror Poliac breathes in just about seven leisurely puffs of marijuana each night as he settles down on the sofa in his Arapahoe County apartment.

"That's all it takes," Poliac says. "It lets me eat something. It calms me down from a day's worth of medication, and it helps with my leg spasms."

For the 43-year-old, the drug brings relief from the punishing disease that over the past 10 years has left him using a wheelchair, dependent on 32 daily medications and with a colostomy.

Poliac's reliance on the illegal drug has landed him in trouble with the law.

But even those enforcing the law find his plight troubling. In July, authorities raided his home and caught him with several marijuana plants growing on his porch.

Poliac said he showed them a doctor's note recommending he take marijuana to relieve his symptoms and the officers went away, saying they wouldn't press charges.

But at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 6, they returned, saying they had an arrest warrant stemming from the July raid, and hustled him off to jail. Now, Poliac faces felony charges of cultivation of marijuana.

If convicted during his August 6 trial, he could face two to six years in prison.

"I just think they should have more important things to do," Poliac said. "It's almost turning into a cat-and-mouse game." Poliac's case poses a dilemma both for the disabled man and the prosecutors, said Richard Bloch, chief deputy district attorney.

"He has a terrible case," Bloch said. "But I believe we are still at a point where cultivation of marijuana is a class 4 felony in this state. . . . It is not the job of the DA's office to legislate for the legislature." Poliac hopes to delay the case and take his chances on a November ballot initiative that would allow people in circumstances like his to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

In the meantime, Bloch said, his office can't undermine the law by letting some offenders go and prosecuting others.

What they can do is offer a plea bargain, Bloch said. "The prosecutors here are fair and understanding persons," Bloch said. "I am sure they would offer a lenient plea bargain."

But Poliac last week turned down a plea agreement that would have reduced the felony charge to a misdemeanor.

Poliac's attorney, Warren Edson, advised against the offer, reasoning that his client was unlikely to meet its conditions.

"The main problem is that the plea would have included probation. Under the terms, he would have been banned from using the drug and subject to random urine tests.

"Given the advice of his physician, probation would have set him up for failure," Edson said.

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