Judge Dismisses Pot Conviction

  Judge Dismisses Pot Conviction

Posted by CN Staff on July 04, 2003 at 10:52:10 PT
By Dan Rice, Staff Writer 
Source: News-Miner  

A Fairbanks judge ruled the Alaska Constitution guarantees a local man the right to possess marijuana for personal use in his home. In a decision rendered last week, Superior Court Judge Richard Savell dismissed the Fairbanks man's conviction for pot possession, ruling that a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision legalizing personal marijuana use by an adult in their home is still the law.Savell agreed with arguments made by an attorney for Scott A. Thomas, 42, who was charged with three counts of felony fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance for allegedly growing pot plants in a Tonsina Drive residence last summer. 
The case went to trial in May and the jury found Thomas guilty of one count of a misdemeanor charge of sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance for possessing 2.6 ounces of marijuana. Lawyer Bill Satterberg immediately filed a motion for Savell to dismiss the guilty verdict based on an argument that the law under which Thomas was convicted was not constitutional as determined by the controversial 1975 state Supreme Court decision made in Ravin v. State.The decision made it legal for adults to possess marijuana in their homes for personal consumption as long as the amount of the drug didn't exceed enough to constitute "an intent to deliver." Four ounces of marijuana or more was considered the intent to deliver threshold when the decision became part of the state's criminal code, but state law has since placed the amount at eight ounces.The justices ruled in Ravin that possession of pot by an adult in their home was allowed as a fundamental constitutional right to privacy. However, a 1990 voter initiative changed state law to make possession of any amount of marijuana in any location illegal.In Thomas' recent case, the defense argued that the portion of the law prohibiting possession of marijuana for personal consumption by an adult in their home is unconstitutional. "A direct conflict in the law exists between the right to privacy guaranteed under the Alaska Constitution and the statutory prohibition ... which criminalizes the personal use of marijuana by an adult in the privacy of the home, regardless of the quantity of the prohibited substance," reads a portion of Thomas' motion to dismiss his conviction. Savell granted the motion on June 25, writing in pen under his signature of approval that "Ravin stands."Jim McLain, a legal clerk in Satterberg's law office who drafted the motion for dismissal, called the decision significant. "My understanding of it is that if Ravin is still the law, then marijuana is still legal," said McLain, a former attorney. He said Savell's decision does not necessarily set precedent, "although in reality it may be indicative of what other judges in Fairbanks do." McLain added that he expects a more broad-scale debate to develop soon about whether Alaska's marijuana possession law is constitutional. McLain said he believes that the 1990 voter initiative that criminalized all pot use in the state is not binding, considering voters do not have the power to change the constitution through the initiative process. In a 1998 Alaska Law Review article that McLain included in his motion, author Andrew Winters also argued that Alaskans have a constitutional right to possess marijuana in their homes. "Ultimately, the limited actual enforcement of private marijuana possession means both Ravin and the initiative that attempted to invalidate it have a great deal of symbolic value. Ravin is a symbol that Alaska should be proud to endorse, a symbol of the value that Alaska places on personal autonomy," Winters wrote in his conclusion. It's possible that the District Attorney's Office could appeal Savell's decision. The Distract Attorney assigned to the case was not in his office Thursday and unavailable for comment.Newshawk: VirgilSource: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (AK)Author: Dan Rice, Staff WriterPublished: Friday, July 04, 2003Copyright: 2003 Fairbanks Publishing Company, Inc.Contact: letters newsminer.comWebsite: Cannabis News -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #18 posted by ekim on July 05, 2003 at 17:31:43 PT
yes Lehder and G B also destroyed the INDP
investional new drug program which is still giving MMJ to only a small fraction of those who still remain on this list. Dennis Ko- spinich for the people.Gee Wille will be haven Farm Aid in Sept in Columbus Dennis represents this area. If Wille can get Woody to go to Mr.Zimmerman the huge Suit making millionair and get him to offer a Hemp Suit that would be a victory for the Farmer. If a few big names in the music industry would show up for the Hemp Industry convention in Dakota. you can find it on the http:/ see events. that would bring much needed Press -- that would be good too for The Farm Aid benefit.
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Comment #17 posted by Jose Melendez on July 05, 2003 at 08:04:19 PT
maybe, but...
"They'll have to be released and compensated."from: voters turned down an ambitious legalization initiative, Measure 5, which suffered because of flawed language. Among other problems, Measure 5 set the legal age for cannabis at 18 and provided for release and compensation of prisoners. Despite this, Measure 5 scored 39% of the vote, the most ever for a non-medical statewide marijuana initiative. 
Drug Reform More Popular Than Bush
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Comment #16 posted by Lehder on July 05, 2003 at 06:27:35 PT
terrific news
How many people have been arrested for mj in Alaska in 13 years since 1990? They'll have to be released and compensated.I remember the "voter initiative" of 1990. At the time, High Times was the only source of news coverage on the issue. It reported how federal agents tore down legally placed posters that opposed the initiative, bullied legal marijuana proponents on the street and destroyed their political materials. A federally hijacked, corrupted election. Many smokers may be too young to remember that George B___ was president at the time.The legal argument here seems simple and strong. It makes one wonder why it is presented only now, 13 years after the initiative, and why the initiative was held at all. The times they are a changin'.
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on July 04, 2003 at 21:21:00 PT
Thanks afterburner
Wooooooo psychedelic! LOL! I couldn't watch but a few minutes. It made me dizzy. Now if that isn't a terrible admission for me. What can I say. I hope you are having a nice holiday! We are!
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Comment #14 posted by afterburner on July 04, 2003 at 20:45:31 PT:
Anybody Want Some More Fireworks?
Digital fireworks from another great American, Timothy Leary:High Society - Tim Leary - Anarchodellic
High Society with David Malmo-Levine
Running Time: 29 min 
Date Entered: 30 Sep 2002 
Viewer Rating: 9.51 (101 votes) 
Number of Views: 6648 
Alright psychonauts ... take three huge hoots of botanical DMT, press "play" on the monitor screen, lie back and let go. Timothy Leary is going to kick your mind clean open. Warning - may lead to questioning authority.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on July 04, 2003 at 20:30:03 PT

Happy 4th of July Nicholas
Sounds like you had a fun day. We had a nice day too. I saw the fireworks one year in D.C. and they were good. This year we just watched them on tv. I can't wait until the news picks up. I'm anxious to see what happens by July 9th in Canada. It could be very interesting.
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Comment #12 posted by Nicholas Thimmesch on July 04, 2003 at 19:48:54 PT:

....4th of July: we went swimming at Point of Rocks on/in the Potomac, went swimming in our pool, went to a BBQ at our friends house and then saw the wonderful fireworks over Washington, hooting and hollering. Good call in Alaska: as Bremer said, "Let's Roll!"
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Comment #11 posted by Virgil on July 04, 2003 at 19:47:44 PT

New websites from the November Coalition hasn't published its quarterly online magazine, Razorwire, since the Winter edition. It has launched two new websites- & open the can CANpaign draws on packing prisoners like a can of sardines instead of treating them like people. The can of sardines as a paperweight is presented at the website.Even Walters does not say that the WOD is a success. Maybe he will leave office with that whopper.
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Comment #10 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on July 04, 2003 at 16:39:10 PT

Look at the last paragraph. Is this typo in the article, or did it get changed somehow? It's almost a Freudian slip: "Distract Attorney" inDEED.
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Comment #9 posted by Virgil on July 04, 2003 at 15:36:25 PT

A different kind of article
CounterPunch has an article up for July 2+2 by an Adam Engel, an author with a rare disease helped by mj. It is titled "Paranoia and The Man- Queer as Grass"- 
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Comment #8 posted by WolfgangWylde on July 04, 2003 at 14:47:57 PT

This guy should have sued for false arrest...
This was actually settled 10 years ago. Here's the timeline.1972 - Alaska voters pass a constitutional amendment recognizing a right to privacy. (86% to 14%)1975 - Alaska State Supreme Court unanimously rules, “This right to privacy would encompass the possession and ingestion of substances such as marijuana in a purely personal, non-commercial context in the home …" (Ravin v. State)1990 - Under threat of losing federal highway funds, Alaska voters pass an initiative to criminalize marijuana. (54% - 46%)1993 - Alaska Superior Court rules “the initiative was inadequate to overrule Ravin and that case remains law.” (State v. McNeil)“As a legal matter, McNeil was correct in deeming the Initiative irrelevant. The Alaska Constitution is the fundamental law of Alaska and all other state laws gain their legitimacy from that charter. The Alaska Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Alaska Constitution, and, in Ravin, it made a specific interpretation as to what the constitutional privacy right encompasses. It is axiomatic that neither a voter initiative, nor any other legislation short of a constitutional amendment, can undo the legal effect of Ravin.”
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Comment #7 posted by freedom fighter on July 04, 2003 at 13:31:22 PT

Alaska also have alot of military men.. Maybe the coming 2004, the picture will be different after Bush send his tin soliders to many different countries and still could'nt even find Saddam or Osma Bin Laden..Anyhow, it is my fond hope that Bush is forcibly removed from the office by and for the People of this country on Nov. 7, 2004. Bush got 200-300 millions dollars to spend on his re-election. Largest ever...If Bush get "re-elected", I am going get the hell out of this country.pazff
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Comment #6 posted by CorvallisEric on July 04, 2003 at 12:57:28 PT

Random musings about Alaska
1 - (heard on NPR station, probably reliable but still subject to error) Alaska is one of 3 states which have passed state resolutions opposing the PATRIOT Act (the others are Vermont and Hawaii). All we could get here in Oregon is a few "liberal" cities and counties.2 - Alaska's over-ambitious (mostly because of the reparations part) amateur attempt at legalization got the same roughly 40 percent yes as Nevada's expensive, professional, and modest attempt.3 - I'm going to make the wild guess that Alaska has an unusually high percentage of single males, nothing like in real frontier times, but still enough to affect some political outcomes. It may seem a little odd to some (and has been discussed here in CNews), but every survey I've ever seen has men approving legalized MJ more than women (within the same age and education groups). Don't know about single vs married, but I'd guess that singles also have a higher approving rate.4 - In the 2000 election Alaska had one of the highest percentage votes for Bush. Maybe due to environment vs job issues? Or the increasingly strange notion that there's a connection between Republican and "libertarian"?
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Comment #5 posted by cloud7 on July 04, 2003 at 11:48:20 PT

Get ready for the mass exodus to Alaska!! GREAT NEWS!! HAPPY JULY 4TH!!
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Comment #4 posted by freedom fighter on July 04, 2003 at 11:43:08 PT

Voter Initiative?
McLain added that he expects a more broad-scale debate to develop soon about whether Alaska's marijuana possession law is constitutional. McLain said he believes that the 1990 voter initiative that criminalized all pot use in the state is not binding, considering voters do not have the power to change the constitution through the initiative process. So if the reformers are trying to change the law using voter's initiative system would not make any difference, it would be better to find another way of making the changes.Sincritters who keep mainlining the prohibtion ideology have to go.. I would'nt be surprise if they are scrambling trying to amend the Ravin.. Fight!pazff

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Comment #3 posted by Dankhank on July 04, 2003 at 11:29:57 PT:

resist on the4th
I went to the local military PX, civilians ...think Walmart mini-me, to remind the patrons what freedom really means.In the food court up front in the store it was truly uplifting to smell a drifting odor redolent of that which we all know to be good.Funny how that happens a lot after I get to a place, these days.Peace to all who resist ... and enjoy the freedoms we have today without forgetting the freedoms we want.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 04, 2003 at 11:09:13 PT

Exactly! That's it, that's how! Happy 4th of July to you!
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Comment #1 posted by RevHappy on July 04, 2003 at 11:01:43 PT:

Holy Moly!
Isn't this how Canada got started? Judges refusing to enforce bad laws?
Legalize Michigan
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