It’s been 14 months since the police swarmed Bob Crouse‘s Colorado Springs House, confiscated his personal medical marijuana garden and brought a felony charge against him for possession with intent to distribute. Friday an El Paso County jury found the leukemia patient not guilty.
Crouse swore to his innocence all along, saying he had a fairly major grow operation only because he needed as many as 75 plants in order to ensure a steady supply of phoenix tears, which are created by boiling about a pound of marijuana at a time, turning it into about an ounce of slushy oil, which is then taken in doses of about a gram a day. Many cancer patients swear by the process, but the only way most can afford a steady supply is by growing their own.
“Buying it was not an option,” Crouse told The Colorado Independent last year.
“I was just trying to grow the quantity of medicine I needed to medicate myself. I never had any intent to distribute,” Crouse said then. “They think I was part of an underground network, but I think I was within my rights. They thought I was a criminal. I tell you it was real intimidating when they showed up with eight or 10 agents. I’m a 63-year-old leukemia patient fighting for the right to fight for my life.”
State law allows medical marijuana patients to possess up to two ounces of marijuana or three mature plants, but also says a person may possess as much marijuana as is medically necessary.
Since Crouse possessed substantially more marijuana than two ounces or three plants, he exercised what is called an “affirmative defense,” essentially saying that while he possessed more marijuana than statute allows, he did not possess more than is medically necessary and therefore did not possess more than is allowed under the constitution.
He said prosecutors did not want to allow him to use the affirmative defense, but that the judge ruled in his favor on that point. “Throughout the trial, the judge (Timothy Schultz) was fighting for my right to defend myself. He said I had the ability to run my affirmative defense and I am grateful that the jury was able to follow along through the maze of laws,” he said.
After his acquittal, Crouse got more good news — he was able to move back into his Green Mountain Falls home, from which he had been evacuated as a precaution because of nearby wildfires.
“I’m an innocent man, and I’m no longer homeless. The fire was very unsettling. I am so grateful for how the community has come together. Everyone has done such an outstanding job,” he said of firefighters and community members who helped each other during a difficult time. Crouse added that the emotions he was feeling about the fire and about being able to go home trumped the emotions of winning his trial.
When his plants were confiscated in May 2011, Crouse said it was also his therapy that was taken from him, his peace of mind.
“You can lose yourself in a little garden. When I was in there working with my plants I would forget all about what was going on inside my body,” he recalls.
“I was beating it,” he says of the cancer. “The effect medical marijuana had on me, on my life, was huge. I felt like I was being healed. I could feel it working in my body.
“A cancer patient has to hope if he is going to make it,” Crouse says. “The medical marijuana gave me hope. Stress makes cancer worse. Everyday I try to eliminate stress from my life. I am fortunate to have a relationship with God. I am a man of faith. I have a strong faith in my creator. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning without that faith.
“This is a journey I didn’t choose,” Crouse said. “If I wasn’t sick I wouldn’t be using marijuana and I wouldn’t be facing incarceration,” he said before the acquittal.
Bob Melamede, Ph.D, president of Cannabis Science testified at the trial that cannabis can cure some cancers.
Crouse said he was thrilled that Melamede was able to testify about the healing properties of marijuana.
Timothy Tipton, who is certified as a cannabis expert in several Colorado jurisdictions said after the trial that Colorado district attorneys need to show a little more respect to medical marijuana patients.
“Once again a jury has recognized that Colorado’s constitution guarantees patients the right to possess as much medicine as they need,” he said.
Noting that both prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys were paid with tax dollars, he said DAs need to “stop wasting time and money on cases like this. We are very disappointed that (El Paso County DA) Dan May didn’t take a different approach.”
As it has been more than a year since Crouse’s plants were confiscated by police, Tipton said returning them to Crouse would be pointless but that Crouse could consider civil litigation in order to receive compensation for his lost medicine.
Crouse said he would, in fact, seek payment from the county. “Not only are my plants probably dead but my medicine has probably been ruined. If they can’t give me back my medicine, they need to give me the value of my medicine.” He estimated the value of his lost plants to be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
He said he hopes his acquittal will give May and other prosecutors pause before they file charges against other patients.
“I hope it makes a difference in how patients are treated,” he said. “They need to understand that they were wrong. We need to know as patients that we are not going to have bombs thrown at us. I see the fear in patients’ eyes,” he said.
The El Paso County District Attorney’s office did not return a call seeking comment.