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MEDICAL MARIJUANA: CASE TO JURY TODAY

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

A trial that challenges rules for the medical use of marijuana will conclude this morning with closing arguments from the prosecution and defense.

After two days of witness testimony, including two expert witnesses from the Bay Area, the eight-woman, four-man jury must decide if Donald Denham, 44, intended to sell any surplus marijuana grown on his property.

Prosecutors suffered an apparent setback yesterday when Judge Robert W. Weir instructed the jury to disregard testimony concerning Del Norte Countys policy of a maximum six-plants per person for medical use.

We dont know who came up with these guidelines, said Weir to the jury after holding a private conference with both attorneys.

It is therefore improper to discuss them. They are not the law - the law comes from the state, said Weir.

The decision appeared to arise from testimony given by defense witness Lonnie Sexton, sister of defendant Donald Denham.

Sexton, who is also charged with possessing marijuana for sale, and whose trial is pending, admitted she had contacted the countys drug task force shortly after receiving a certificate to grow medical marijuana.

According to Sexton, she had quite a lengthy conversation (with drug task force agent A.C. Fields). When Sexton was told about the six-plant policy, Sexton said I thought it was an unrealistic number.

Sexton continued, I was reading the state law that said we could grow (enough marijuana) to match our consumption. I ignored the local law.

Sexton also said she took marijuana by including it in baked goods, a method that usually requires a larger quantity. Udell held up a large bag of marijuana and asked, this was found in your bedroom. You dont have any place in the kitchen to keep it?

Sexton responded that she kept the drug hidden so children who visited the home wouldnt see it.

Defense attorney Leroy Davies introduced Christopher Conrad, his second expert witness. Conrad is the author of several books on hemp and was offered as an authority on marijuana cultivation methods.

After examining photo evidence, Conrad was asked if he believed Denham was a sophisticated harvester of marijuana.

He hasnt read a lot and doesnt have a lot of experience. Certainly not very sophisticated, Conrad said.

When asked to appraise the street value of some of the evidence, Conrad said, They would give this away...very low potency.

He characterized Denhams greenhouse as more like a hobby. He certainly didnt need to grow tomatoes in the same boxes.

But prosecutor Udell challenged Conrads status as an expert witness.

She asked whether it was true that High Times Magazine, which openly advocates legalization of marijuana, had dubbed him as a hero.

Conrad said that was true.

And she asked how his B.A. degree in Fine Arts qualified him to to testify about horticulture.

Conrad said he has extensive knowledge of medical marijuana use, including being in contact with patients in reputable, federally sanctioned studies.

Denham was arrested Aug., 21, 2000 at his home in Crescent City for possessing marijuana for sale. The property contained more than 100 marijuana plants. Drug task force agents seized all but six of the plants.

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