Pot Pundit Disputes Cop Claims at Marijuana Trial

Pot Pundit Disputes Cop Claims at Marijuana Trial
Posted by FoM on February 05, 2000 at 14:12:32 PT
By Maline Hazle, Record Searchlight
Source: Record Searchlight
Medicinal marijuana defendant Jim Hall wound up his testimony Friday in Shasta County Superior Court, quickly followed to the stand by a hemp expert who testified that Hall and his mother weren't growing enough pot to be selling it.That expert, Chris Conroy of El Cerrito, later was challenged by prosecutor Tim Kam with a cross-examination intended to show that he supports not only medicinal marijuana use, legalized four years ago by state Proposition 215, but wants to see marijuana legalized for adult recreational use.
Still later, Dr. Frank Fisher made a three-minute appearance during which he got no further than the third question from defense lawyer Eric Berg before ''reluctantly'' asserting his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself.In a hearing while the 10-woman, two-man jury waited in the third floor hallway outside, Redding attorney Jeffrey C. Stotter told Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman that Fisher could not afford to be questioned about any of the details of his practice or patient treatment.That's because portions of that testimony could be used in the triple manslaughter case pending against Fisher, 46, for allegedly contributing to the overdose deaths of three patients for whom he prescribed an opium-based painkiller.The doctor, who lives in Redding, recommended medicinal marijuana use for Lydia Hall, 62, for glaucoma, said attorney Berg. Lydia Hall is the mother of 38-year-old Jim Hall.The mother and son, both of Redding, are accused of cultivation and conspiracy to cultivate marijuana. Jim Hall also is charged with possession of marijuana for sale.In the hearing before Fisher's brief court testimony, Berg told Judge Boeckman he wanted to question Fisher about how he examined Lydia Hall and how his office checked with her eye doctor about her symptoms and diagnosis.''Although Dr. Fisher would like to help his patient,'' attorney Stotter said, answering Berg's questions would allow cross-examination by Kam that would reveal information that could be used against Fisher in his own trial.The judge agreed.Friday's session opened with Jim Hall's second day on the stand and questions from Kam about whether the defendant learned to grow pot by reading ''High Times,'' a marijuana-oriented magazine.Kam has introduced two issues of ''High Times'' as evidence and frequently notes in his questioning that they contain articles on hydroponic growing and commercial growing.Hall admits that one of two gardens at his house was hydroponic and that insecticides and plant foods photographed by sheriff's deputies were to help grow the plants.Conroy, the marijuana expert who spent mid-day on the stand, flatly contradicted testimony of the prosecution's first witness, Shasta County sheriff's Detective Jerry Shearman, who said the marijuana gardens found at the Halls' house eventually would have yielded 24 pounds of ''smokable green bud'' a year  far more than Hall needed for his injured back.The ponytailed Conroy, who has published two books, worked with hemp growers in Europe and interviewed about 1,000 medicinal marijuana patients, is qualified as a hemp expert in 14 counties in California.He characterized Jim Hall's gardens as ''sea of green'' operations where ''large numbers of plants are grown with a small yield.''He estimated that Hall's small indoor garden would yield only about 18 ounces of marijuana a year, if that, because Hall had made a ''significant mistake'' in the way he cloned the plants and used lights hot enough to dwarf and kill the plants.Conroy said Hall made another mistake when he surrounded 191 seedlings in his garage with black plastic, which absorbs light and absorbs and traps heat. The garage garden was likely to produce only about 2 pounds a year, Conroy estimated.The expert went on to testify that a heavy medical marijuana user would need 6 to 12 pounds of pot a year.Kam attempted to discredit Conroy's credentials, repeatedly asking questions about whether he had ever worked with law enforcement, asking about Conroy's writings on the Internet and about slogans repeated at pro-medicinal marijuana rallies.Kam contends that studies Conroy used to estimate how much pot a patient smokes are based on studies of patients who were smoking far less potent pot than Hall was attempting to grow.Berg questioned Kam again and asked ''what kind of things would you look for to indicate sales'' of marijuana?''First and foremost, a sale,'' Conroy replied. ''A sale, pay sheets, evidence of wealth.'' He added to the list: quality scales, coin bags (for packaging) and evidence of traffic in and out of the house, police responses, a confession, ''something going on of a suspicious nature, which doesn't seem to be in this case.''Testimony in the trial resumes Monday.Reporter Maline Hazle can be reached at 225-8266 or at mhazle February 5, 2000 2000 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps CoRelated Articles:Pot Amount Issue in Trial Patients Find Pot is an Arresting Experience 
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