By Dan Riffle
Over on our state overview for Missouri, I mentioned the case of Kenneth Wells, a 57 year-old St. Charles man with no criminal record who was facing 5-15 years in prison for felony marijuana cultivation charges. Mr. Wells suffers from chronic seizures and had been using marijuana to treat his symptoms. As his doctor, whose testimony was ruled inadmissible because Missouri has no medical marijuana law, would have said:
“Marijuana is safe and effective in the treatment of seizure disorder as manifest in this case. In patients who have not obtained adequate seizure control with conventional therapy, cannabis offers a rational alternative at least as safe as conventional therapy for intractable chronic epileptic seizures. Mr. Wells has been exposed to multiple medications over the past 26 years to treat his seizures with risks far higher than with cannabis.”
The good news is that yesterday, the prosecutor handling the case sent Mr. Wells a letter to notify him that all charges were being dropped. So does this mean that patients in Missour no longer need to worry about being prosecuted for legitimate medical marijuana use? Not exactly.
The bad news is the charges weren’t dropped because the prosecutor suddenly grew a heart. He felt, despite the ruling preventing Wells’ physician from tesifying, that it would have been difficult to keep evidence of his condition from the jury, who likely wouldn’t convict once they knew about the seizure disorder. In other words, he was worried that a non-conviction would have “muddied the waters” regarding Missouri’s approach to medical marijuana, which of course is to arrest and convict seriously ill people for using the medicine their doctor recommends.
I mention all this because a bill has been introduced in the Missouri legislature every year for the last four years that could have prevented this unfortunate situation. This year the bill had more sponsors than ever, including a Republican physician, but was once again denied a hearing. While it’s nice that Mr. Wells won’t be convicted, he and his defense attorney spent more than two years contesting these charges before they were eventually dropped. Imagine all the time, money, and hand wringing both he and the state could have saved if Missouri had a more sensible approach to medical marijuana and he hadn’t been arrested in the first place.