OLYMPIA – A judge fined a wheelchair-bound Olympia man $4,000 Wednesday for growing 42 marijuana plants in his home, but he imposed no jail time.
A jury convicted William Kurtz, 58, in October of felony counts of possession of marijuana over 40 grams and manufacture of marijuana. He has no prior felony criminal history and uses the wheelchair because of a medical condition.
Before trial, Kurtz’s attorneys fought to be allowed to present a medicinal-marijuana defense to the jury, but Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy did not allow it. Prosecutor Scott Jackson argued that Kurtz did not have a medicinal-marijuana card in March, when Thurston County Narcotics Task Force detectives found the plants, as well as more than 15 ounces of packaged marijuana, in his home in the 11800 block of Champion Drive Southwest.
At trial, Hiatt tried to introduce to the jury a letter from Kurtz’s doctor that describes Kurtz’s “hereditary spastic paraplegia” and his medical benefit from using marijuana.
The letter from the Olympia physician, Peter Taylor, was not allowed as evidence. It reads it part that Kurtz “has had progressive loss of function related to this familial neurologic condition which has left him wheelchair-bound and with severe tremors. Unfortunately, there is no treatment to prevent or cure this condition, and we are left to manage his symptoms, including chronic daily pain which is severe.”
Kurtz’s avoidance of jail time was the only silver lining in this mess. One Olympia-based medical marijuana activist I spoke to a few weeks back was fearing for Kurtz’s life if he were to be sent to jail.
Prosecutors really need to exercise better discretion on who we put through the criminal justice system. If Kurtz was caught selling his marijuana, that’s one thing, but he was quite obviously a medical marijuana patient. The proper course of action should have been to confiscate whatever plants were over the state limit and to give him a window of time to get a doctor’s authorization. Let’s reserve the court system for actual criminals.