Texas Medical Marijuana Acquittal

 Posted on March 27, 2008 in Uncategorized

From (little known geographical fact: Texas is so big that Amarillo is actually closer to Long Island, New York than it is to Houston) comes this story about a successful marijuana defense by Jeff Blackburn:

A Texas patient who uses medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of HIV won acquittal on marijuana possession charges March 25 based on a "necessity defense." Though such a defense – which requires the defendant to establish that an otherwise illegal act was necessary to avoid imminent harm more serious than the harm prevented by the law he or she broke – has rarely been successful in Texas, the jury took just 11 minutes to acquit Tim Stevens, 53. The trial was hotly contested.

Not jury nullification, exactly - it sounds like Jeff (el chingón, previously famous for clearing the names of Tulia defendants framed by Tom Coleman) gave them a legal reason to acquit, and they seized it. Here's Texas's law on necessity:

Texas Penal Code Section 9.22:Conduct is justified if:

  1. the actor reasonably believes the conduct is immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm;

  2. the desirability and urgency of avoiding the harm clearly outweigh, according to ordinary standards of reasonableness, the harm sought to be prevented by the law proscribing the conduct; and

  3. a legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed for the conduct does not otherwise plainly appear.

So to six jurors in Amarillo, at least, the use of medical marijuana in some cases is clearly reasonable; the harm sought to be prevented by the proscription of marijuana is so clearly outweighed by the desirability of the accused's avoiding "nausea and cyclical vomiting syndrome, a condition so severe that he has required hospitalization and blood transfusions in the past" that the decision took only 11 minutes - barely time to read the jury charge and take a vote.

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