Bryant Claims Marijuana Was Medically Necessary 

Bryant Claims Marijuana Was Medically Necessary 
Posted by CN Staff on May 02, 2005 at 21:10:31 PT
By John Flowers
Source: Addison Independent
Middlebury, Vermont -- An Addison County District Court jury on Friday found a Goshen man guilty of cultivating a large crop of marijuana on his property, but found him innocent on an added charge of possession of the substance, which he said he was using to treat chronic pain stemming from a horrific accident he’d suffered more than 30 years ago.The jury’s verdict, rendered after more than seven hours of deliberations at the Addison County Courthouse, saw defendant Stephen Bryant successfully use the state’s rarely-invoked “defense of necessity” — through which he and his lawyers argued that Bryant had no choice but to engage in a criminal activity (using marijuana) to remedy an emergency situation (bouts of excruciating pain).
It’s a decision that should give the Legislature impetus to expand the scope of the state’s medical marijuana law to include people suffering from ailments like Bryant’s, according to attorney Robert Keiner, who represented Bryant during the two-day trial.“It should have some legislators asking some questions about the marijuana law,” Keiner said following the verdict, delivered by the jury at 11:30 p.m. The Charges Bryant, 54, was facing felony charges for cultivating 49 marijuana plants and possessing more than two ounces of the substance. Bryant, one of several witnesses who took the stand during the trial, told the court that he needed marijuana to dull the lingering pain of a construction site accident three decades ago. The accident occurred in Fredonia, N.Y., in 1974, when Bryant impaled himself on a metal bar during a fall from a radio tower he was dismantling on top of a school building. Bryant told the jury that the metal bar had penetrated his right thigh and exited his left buttock. Pausing to collect himself on several occasions, Bryant told the jury how he managed to pull himself up, only to find that his legs “didn’t work.”He recounted how a school janitor — the first person to come to his aid — had placed a crucifix around his neck when he saw the extent of Bryant’s injuries. A priest at the hospital to which Bryant was rushed pronounced last rites on the injured man.“Beyond Description” “The pain was beyond description,” Bryant told the jury, during questioning from Keiner.Bryant spent two weeks at a New York hospital, where he was treated for substantial internal injuries. It was during that time in the hospital, according to Bryant, that he was first administered a series of narcotic painkillers to control persistent pain that has lingered from the accident.Those narcotic painkillers, according to Bryant, proved addictive and brought undesirable side effects, such as wooziness, constipation and nausea.“It temporarily covers the pain; when it wears off, you want more,” he told the jury.Bryant said the wooziness caused by the narcotics prevented him from returning consistently to the only job he had ever known — construction and carpentry, usually at lofty heights.During the next three decades, Bryant said he consulted more than a dozen physicians, who prescribed a whole range of medicines and therapies to try to alleviate the constant pain he was in. Bryant also tried physical therapy, herbal medicines and bee sting therapy in an effort to get relief.But the only thing that worked consistently, according to Bryant, was smoking marijuana, a remedy one of his friends suggested to him around eight months after the accident.“The interest was two-fold,” Bryant told the jury. “It acted as an appetite stimulant, and reduced the level of pain to allow me to sleep.”Bryant, who stands well over six feet tall, claimed his weight dropped by 40 pounds (to 135) in the aftermath of the accident.Move To Alaska He told the jury he briefly moved to Alaska in 1985 to legitimize his marijuana cultivation. Alaska, at the time, was the only state in which one could legally cultivate small quantities of marijuana.“It would make the pain manageable,” Bryant said of the drug. “I could function as a normal human being.”Testifying on Bryant’s behalf were Linda Adams, his longtime partner, and Dr. Joseph M. McSherry, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Vermont. McSherry was one of two physicians to serve on the Vermont Legislative Committee on Mari­juana in 2002. Addison County District Court Judge Christina Reiss ultimately ruled, however, that there was insufficient evidence to deem McSherry an “expert” in the field of medical marijuana.Vermont has a new medical marijuana law, but that law strictly limits users to three plants and restricts eligibility to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer or AIDS.Bryant grew his own marijuana on his property for 20 years — enough, he said, to meet his own needs on an annual basis.Crop Uncovered He was able to evade detection until Aug. 7, 2003, when a Vermont State Police Marijuana Eradication Team — during a helicopter fly-over — detected patches of marijuana growing on Bryant’s property in Goshen.The following day, a four-person police team executed a search warrant at Bryant’s home. That search, according to police, yielded 49 marijuana plants growing in three locations on the property, 132 grams of processed marijuana and 490 grams of marijuana seeds.Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Chris Perkett offered three witnesses who participated in the search of Bryant’s home on Aug. 8, 2003. Those witnesses — VSP Det. Sgt. James Whitcomb, VSP Trooper Julie Ryan and Vermont Fish and Game Warden David Rowden — also testified seeing and/or pulling the marijuana plants from Bryant’s property. Some of the plants were more than four feet tall, they said.Authorities acknowledged during their testimony that Bryant cooperated during the search, showing them where the plants were growing on his property. They said they found no scales or large quantities of cash that would be consistent with marijuana sales.Bryant’s cooperation, Keiner argued, proved he was using the marijuana for himself as a pain remedy of last resort.“Since 1985, when you started using marijuana, have you ever stopped looking for an alternative so you didn’t have to keep looking over your shoulder?” Keiner asked his client.“No,” was Bryant’s response.A True Necessity?But Perkett, during cross-examination, got Bryant to admit that he’d received some pain relief from herbal remedies, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine and through a back operation he had received in 1980.That testimony, Perkett argued, proved that Bryant had alternatives to marijuana to relieve his pain, and that he was therefore not entitled to use the “defense of necessity.”The jury ultimately allowed Bryant to use that defense on the possession charge, but found him guilty on the felony cultivation charge, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $500,000. The court this week is expected to set a sentencing hearing for Bryant.“I think it was a very fair verdict, given the evidence in this case,” Perkett said. “Given the compelling amount of evidence about this defendant’s medical condition… I was not surprised the jury, in its humanity, rendered this verdict.”That said, Perkett does not believe the verdict should give cause for changes to Vermont’s medical marijuana law.“The law permits what I think is an experiment in critical, end-of-life care and really shouldn’t be extended beyond that,” Perkett said.Expanding the scope of the law, Perkett said, could create a “slippery slope that could lead to legalization, and I think that’s the wrong way to go.”Keiner said he was “disappointed” the jury didn’t find his client innocent on both counts. He is weighing an appeal to the Vermont Supreme CourtSource: Addison Independent (Middlebury, VT)Author: John FlowersPublished: May 02, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Addison County IndependentContact: news addisonindependent.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment