Kona Judge Convicts Legal Medical Marijuana Patient For 1 Gram

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Approximately 20 members of Friends for Justice, a Big Island medical marijuana advocacy group, were in a Kona courtroom yesterday to support legal medical marijuana patient Geoff  “Woody” Woodhall.

Deputy Chief District Court Judge  Joseph P. Florendo, Jr., found Mr. Woodhall guilty of 3rd degree promotion of a detrimental drug resulting from having roughly one gram of marijuana in his possession while passing through the Kona airport.

In a motion to dismiss the case, Mr. Woodhall and the prosecutor stipulated to the fact that Woodhall had a valid blue card and a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana for medical reasons. He had possession of the marijuana (though he was not using the marijuana in public) while he was traveling to Oahu. He had brought a small amount of his legal medicine — about 1 gram of marijuana with him for medical reasons.

Friends for Justice with Woody (center kneeling) at Kona court house

Public defender Sherry Lawson told judge Florendo that Woodhall intended to appeal the conviction. A $50.00 fine plus another $280.00 in court ordered fees were suspended pending the appeal.

Friends for Justice had been aware of the case for several months and provided moral support to Woodhall during his trial.

This ruling was in stark contrast to 2 other local medical marijuana cases.

In December, 2010, Hilo District Court Judge Barbara Takase  dismissed similar charges against defendants Donna Goldsworthy and Alan R. Lee, using a similar motion and set of stipulations.

In the Hilo cases, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Son said the state would likely appeal the decision by judge Takase.

It appears likely both the opposing rulings are headed to the Hawaii appellate courts where hopefully medical patients will finally get the protection that other patients have to take there medication with them when they travel.

More than 9,000 people in the state of Hawaii have received a physician’s recommendation to legally grow and use marijuana. Judge Florendo said that a reasonable person would read the statute to mean you can not take your medical marijuana with you when you travel.  The judge is saying in effect that you can only use your medicine in your home. He did say you could transport it from the care giver to your home, but nowhere else.

Are these 9,000 plus Hawaii patients suppose to leave their illnesses at home when they travel? How is that reasonable? Or are they suppose to risk their lives and arrest going to the back alleys of the places they travel to buy marijuana on the black market? They will not be in their homes at all when they travel, so if they use their medicine they should be subject to arrest, according to the logic of judge Florendo.

Judge Florendo acknowledged the law is not clear and as such he should have found in favor of the defendant and dismissed the case. He must err in favor of the defendant.

The ruling made little sense to the truly reasonable mind in my opinion. Judge Florendo clearly does not like the medical marijuana laws, but he is not a doctor and he is in essence telling patients they must suffer with their disease if they want to travel.

Some of the patients could suffer seizures or other reactions maybe even die. Many will be in pain without the legal doctor recommended medicine. Friends for Justice finds his ruling cruel, misinformed, beyond his expertise, and absolutely unreasonable. In our view any reasonable person would allow sick people to take their medical marijuana with them just as any other doctor approved medication. Judge Florendo and Hawaii prosecutors are singling marijuana out as the only medication that a legal patient can not travel with. That is not only unreasonable it is discriminatory and makes no sense what so ever. The ruling is not based in science — it is based in reefer madness, and that is the law of the land in Kona and in Hawaii county, according to judge Florendo. Clearly judge Takase is more rational and informed than her counterpart.

Medical Cannabis advocates in Hawaii have been fighting for years for a safe, regulated distribution system. The legislature bears responsibility to increase the amount of marijuana patients can possess, and to clarify the law.  But after almost a decade Hawaii’s lawmakers have failed to protect the most vulnerable of Hawaii’s residents, the medical marijuana patient.

Advocate Matt Rifkin, a member of the Medical Cannabis Working Group set up by the state Legislature, said legal medical marijuana patients have been arrested and prosecuted for years in Hawaii county.

Most have been intimidated into taking plea bargains, and paying the fines rather than risk the implied harsher penalties that they could be subject to if they decide to plead not guilty and ask for a trial. State law allows  blue card medical marijuana patients to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana. Transportation of marijuana for medical use is specifically protected, according to a manual put out by the state Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division. This comes directly from information given to patients:

The Hawaii’s law states, however, that the “acquisition, possession, cultivation, use, distribution (defined as only the transfer of marijuana and paraphernalia from the primary caregiver to the qualifying patient), or transportation of marijuana for medicinal use is specifically protected.”

None of the patients were using the marijuana in these cases they were simply traveling with their legal medicine. Here is the section Judge Florendo cited in convicting Geoff Woodhall.

Does Not Allow the Use of Medical Marijuana in a Public Place, Workplace or in a Moving Vehicle. Even with a doctor’s certification, the Act specifically prohibits use of medical marijuana in any bus or moving vehicle, in the workplace, on school grounds, any use that endangers the health or well being of another person, or in any public place.

Again the law clearly states the word USE. Woody was not “using” his medicine in public — he was transporting it.  He has a qualifying condition, a doctors recommendation , and a state issued blue card. The state in reality by its own actions lead Woody to believe he had an affirmative defense, effectively entrapping him . The patient is being punished for the state’s failure to address the issue properly.

Judge Florendo’s conviction and ruling is not reasonable by the reading of the law or common sense. A drug conviction is not to be taken lightly and can follow these patients the rest of their lives, affecting their employment and other opportunities in a very negative way.

Governor  Ben Cayetano signed into law the Hawaii Medical Marijuana Act after the legislature approved it in 2000.  Hawaii was the first state to enact a medical marijuana program legislatively. You can not just start using marijuana because you want too or think it might help you, there is a bureaucratic process you must complete to become a medical marijuana patient in Hawaii.  You have to have a qualifying medical condition, including glaucoma, seizures, HIV, AIDS, severe nausea, pain or muscle spasms.  Your condition has to be documented in your medical records.  You have to see a doctor that can document your condition.  You may have to transfer your medical records, if your current doctor does not participate in the program (many don’t for fear of retribution by the government). Woody did all these things then the state detained him, arrested him, prosecuted him and convicted him. What else could he have possibly done to comply with Hawaii’s medical marijuana law?

In Hawaii the medical marijuana program is overseen by the state Department of Public Safety — the same people that oversee law enforcement, prisons and jails. Most states with medical marijuana programs have the Department of Health run the program. By having law enforcement oversee the program Hawaii has created an adversarial process for the physicians and patients that are using the program. The wait right now to get your blue card is up to 6 months. After your doctors submits your application the NED issues a temporary letter that states you are clear to use marijuana, but they are expiring before patients receive the blue card, leaving them subject to arrest. Over 5000 patients live on the Big Island and as the cases above show, these patients have every reason to fear arrest and prosecution. That is not right. How can anyone respect law enforcement or a justice system that does this?

Under judge Florendo’s ruling, Woody and the other patients would have to know a drug dealer everywhere they go in order to get their medical marijuana.  The reason they registered is they don’t want to do something illegal. They want to be legal. Instead they are being prosecuted for no legitimate reason. They are being targeted in an overt effort to subvert Hawaii’s medical marijuana program.

These judges and the administrators are not doctors — they are law enforcement, and it shows. Law enforcement has no business making or policing medical decisions. Law enforcement has lead the fight to prevent any reform or changes to the existing medical marijuana laws in Hawaii, and are unfairly arresting and prosecuting law abiding citizens because they do not like the law.

The medical marijuana program in Hawaii must be moved from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. The legislature and the courts have no choice but to correct this injustice that is occurring on a regular basis, not only to law abiding citizens, but to the weakest of our people, those that have any number of serious even debilitating illnesses.

If anyone knows of a medical patient targeted in Hawaii county that would like trial support they can contact Friends for Justice through our ad on this site. You are invited to join Friends for Justice as a courtroom observer and help provide court support to patients, contact us for the upcoming court dates and meetings.

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  • pakalolopete

    What a bunch of bullshit. The laws are so inconsistently applied it’s the only consistent thing you can depend on to “application of law” on this rock.
    It’s pitiful, ignorant and corrupt.
    I’ve had an undercover cop in the Honolulu airport take down to the ‘room’ where on FBI, one DEA, of CIA, one Interpol and one airport cop/sheriff, had their task force office. 8×10’s on the wall of the office with pictures of people with kilos of herion stuffed in panty hose and suit cases full off pills eve a few shots they made sure i saw of some one laying in a pool of blood. One guy cracked they caught him with an ounce of pot. ha ha ha
    It’s a game, the adult boys like to play, cops and robbers/smugglers. But a joint will do if their bored.
    They informed me that from zero to an ounce was a petty misdemeanor and from and ounce to to kilos was a misdemeanor, and anything above that was a felony.
    I told them when they asked what I had, was somewhere between a petty and a real misdemeanor. They ran a check and came up with nothing on me so they let me make my plane. This was years ago.
    Back then we’d toss a day pack on the conveyor belt and walk right through no worries, (ah back in the day 😉
    But recently the airport was so hung up on 30z. of liquid or less they completely passed over an ounce of pot and some hash. Have the inspection notice in the same bag. But I didn’t have any idea if traveling with it was illegal or not because I have a prescription for it and flying to one medical sate to another one would logically think it was less of a security threat than 4oz. or Owala Carrot juice which I wasn’t allowed to take on. The pot, the hash, the 200 vicoden and 100 valium no problem. just no liquid.
    STUPID, is the only thing I can say about the state of affairs.
    It’s like living in a looney bin. All the badges following orders and even if they are stupid they’ll follow them. because all the job requires is for them to follow procedure, not think.
    Yet who doesn’t know a cop on the rock that gets stoned? or shit faced sloppy drunk at the Alibi?
    No on driving that drunk assed cop home but him.
    Cops of Fireman drink and drive and kill, no worries. Get Barbara for one judge you don’t even need truth or evidence she’ll go with the best lie.
    The ONLY SAD thing about living on this rock is the county government is incompetent and corrupt, and everyone knows it.
    So whada ya gonna do?

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    • buddah belly

      Get in touch with FriendsforJustice@gmail.com and we will put you on the list to come to court trials and send in testimony to the legislature regarding cannabis laws!

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  • My conscience

    Bunch of WHINING CRIMINALS in this blog!!!!
    Obviously, your stoner mentality is clouding your already clouded judgement!

    Police should definitely continue to pursue thugs like you!

    Really, HOW SICK was he is he can ly to OAHU? Was he even going there for MEDICAL REASONS?

    Druggies will ALWAYS define laws on THEIR OWN TERMS, instead of according to written laws.

    If he was HONESTLY NOT TRYING TO HIDE IT, why didn’the get “clearance to travel” with it?!!!

    The judge ABSOLUTELY did the right thing! If you aren going act be responsibly, then don’t engage!

    I know of way too many people ILLEGALLY dealing marijuan and other drugs that are getting to keiki, so why doesn’t anyone even CARE about the negative effects that will RUIN a child’s life by never letting them live “drug free”?

    SHAME on you liars! LEGITIMATE MEDICAL USE FOR DEBILITATING PROBLEMS are ONE THING…the wreckless recreational use and detrimental promotion is entirely DIFFERENT andshould be punishable by law.

    Those who DONT SMOKE DOPE, KNOW the DIFFERENCE and are MENTALLY ABLE to DISCERN LAW!!!! STONERS can’t!

    I bet he has been driving around with it too (DUI), and passing it out to friends, if not even selling it?

    I know of a nurse who has also been SELLING it ILLEGALLY! She is one of the most whacked out people around this county, obviously from using her own product!

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    • buddah belly

      My Concious, who obviously has no concious, many sick people fly to Oahu every day. You should be aware of that, being in the psychiactric field. Where is your compassion? All you spew is hate. I’m glad you are not my doctor…

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    • *

      I find Drinking far more damaging to the Aina and Hawaii in general and is far more abused then a little pakalolo. Marijuana is one of the best medicines on this earth PERIOD. Also you can’t physically kill your self lieke you can with boose. Get your facts straight, Dont worry about other people, and please try some. I it would help your hemorrhoids.

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  • Let us PRAY for our enemies,

    District Judge Joseph P. Florendo Jr.

    in the NAME OF JESUS.

    Then Stand UP and PRESS on.

    Praise Jesus !!!
    Only by the Blood.

    ” “

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  • Matt

    in Hawaii for whatever reason, there is no charge of “posession” of marijuana….they call all such violations as “promotion of a detremental drug”

    dunno why

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    • Thomas

      and they count the bag the marijuana was in……the court docs list the amount as 2.12 grams but fail to deduct the weight of the plastic bag. The marijuana weighed roughly 1 gram but the local paper said 2 grams, a small distinction that doubled the weight in this case. In other cases they weigh the dirt, box they put it in and the kitchen sink if they can get away with it.

      In other words you should never believe what the police claim the plant count or weight was in marijuana arrest because the department standard is knowingly dishonest in order to overcharge the marijuana defendants. The Hawaii county prosecutors have no problem with this and join in the conspiracy to overcharge marijuana defendants also.

      Many times charging ten or more felonies for a single marijuana growing arrest. Then they threaten defendants with multiple life sentences for growing the plants. The point is they have no morals and are dishonest using dishonest means to force the marijuana defendants to plead guilty to much more serious crimes than are warranted many times. That is not justice those doing this are worse than many of the people that grew the marijuana. What passes for truth in Hawaii county court rooms is laughable, you need look no further than the prosecutors statements defending the killer Mossman in the death of Dale Kanani Tim Sing.

      The prosecutor actually defended the recommendation of 90 days doing weekends in the killing quoted in the HTH saying “Some people may look at this and say it’s lenient, but it’s not, because he’s saddled with a $125,000 indebtedness that he cannot discharge in bankruptcy,” said Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville.

      This is the same guy that argued Metcalf was a marijuana addict and sent him to prison for 20 years for defending his home from a 7 time convicted felon and sex offender. He regularly threatens marijuana offenders with 20 years but gives killers (good old boyz) 90 days weekends with an expungement. Mossman was promoted by the county after killing Mr. Sing who had his whole life in front of him and was expecting his first child. These marijuana prosecutions are an outrage and a perversion of justice particularly in light of the many murders and killings that are not pursued with the same vengeance. In Hawaii county the police and prosecutors are more concerned about a victimless marijuana crime than an alcohol induced killer. That is not justice its abuse of power. They should all be fired……..

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    • johnny

      Hay Florendo
      The next time you travel with a Prescription I hope P.S.A.locks your but up in the County Jail!
      I feel if we all start standing up for our Civil Rights as the 20 persons did,Such Demonstrations shall bring more national & Federal Attention!
      “We The People Have our Rights Violated Daily”. It is not just about Marijuana and the smokers.
      Civil Rights Demonstrations/Support will draw more positive results then “Dude They took my Dope”

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  • Andrea Tischler

    This case begs the question, why have a law if it is to be totally ignored? The absurdity and pettiness for the amount of cannabis would be laughable were it not for the legal nightmare and stress that the patient is being subjected to.

    This is another example of how cannabis patients have and continue to be treated as second class citizens. The practice needs to end, immediately.

    Americans for Safe Access will continue to lobby to update antiquated MM laws and hopes that during this session the State Legislators will affirm that patients have the right to transport their medicine when traveling for medical treatment between counties.

    Another overdo legislative bill relates to establishing dispensaries for the more than 8000 Hawai’i registered patients. Many patients are forced to buy from drug dealers placing them in vulnerable and frequently dangerous situations. It is essential that patients have safe access to their medicine with a guarantee they are receiving medicinal grade cannabis. Dispensaries which will be state regulated and taxed on sales will, also, pump needed revenues into state coffers. A win-win for all.

    I am optimistic that the legislators working with a receptive governor this year will make the decisions that will address medical cannabis patients’ needs and that the dark chapter and the harsh injustice and punishment delivered in the past will be just that.

    Andrea Tischler, Co-Chair
    Americans for Safe Access, BI Chapter
    Hilo

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    • Thomas

      It should have been noted in the article that ASA and Peaceful Sky Alliance were also in the court room and have been instrumental in F4J trial support and the medical marijuana movement in Hawaii county…..Thank you all very much

      We also owe a lot to Roger Christie who is a political prisoner of the United States, held with out bail or conviction of any crime under the pretense that marijuana is so dangerous that he can not be allowed bail or he may commit another marijuana crime.

      In reality its his message and ability to mount a legitimate defense that the government fears…………

      President Obama talks about China’s civil and human rights oppression while he holds pacifist Roger Christie in one of his prisons for a non violent marijuana crime. Roger will not get a fair trial how can he when they have stripped him on any means to do so.

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  • buddah belly

    Transport is allowed, the judge even read the law out loud, but did not listen to it, he chose to rule by the “no use” in public places. Woody wasn’t “using” his medicine, he was only taking a gram (about $10 worth) with him. HOW CAN THAT BE CONSIDERED PROMOTION? The “Compassionate use of Medical Marijuana” laws here in Hawaii are retarded. That the Public Safety Law Enforcement is in charge of MEDICAL PATIENTS is retarded. Medical Patients need to sue the state for damages inflicted on them for the last 10 years…actually going on 11 years now…

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  • WHEN THE GOVERNMENT BREAKS THE LAW, THERE IS NO LAW.

    A bunch of unindicted criminals are in control of Hawaii’s legal system.

    mahalo F4J!!

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  • Tom Liberty

    What a waste of taxpayers money to prosecute such a minute amount of medical marijuana. Sad the court system is so wasteful.

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  • CR

    Detrimental Drug? What is Alcohol? It is 2011; pull your head out of your rear end. I am guessing if it were the 1930’s the State would be in support of Prohibition. It is such a waste of effort and resource to make otherwise law abiding citizen criminals for smoking weed. It is just mindless.

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