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Medical Pot trial delayed

Gregory Crofton

A West Slope medical marijuana case expected to go to trial this week in South Lake Tahoe was pushed back until March 12.

Lawyers from the prosecution and defense agreed the pretrial motions in the case of Keith and Lisa Whitaker, residents of Garden Valley, Calif., accused of cultivating marijuana illegally, were taking longer than expected.

Jury selection, which began last week, will be scrapped and started from scratch next month.

“It came down to time problems,” said Erik Schlueter, deputy district attorney prosecuting the case. “It was pushing back too far and was going to run into problems with holidays and vacations. Both sides agreed to continue the case.”

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow declared a mistrial to postpone the trial. The Whitaker case was transferred from a court in Placerville on Jan. 28 because of time and space constraints, Schlueter said.

Pretrial hearings held last week are still valid despite the mistrial. They dealt with the Miranda rights of the Whitakers and whether a narcotics investigator can testify as an expert on marijuana yield. More hearings are set next week Monday and Wednesday to determine if witnesses for the defense can testify as marijuana experts.

Keith Whitaker II, 33, and his wife Lisa, 35, are both charged with three felonies: cultivation marijuana, offering to furnish the drug and conspiracy to furnish it. They each have valid doctors’ recommendations that allows them to use and grown marijuana. Keith suffers with back pain. Lisa has stomach problems.

They were arrested Sept. 12 after 40 pot plants were discovered on their property. The Whitakers claim they use marijuana only to treat themselves and caregive to others with valid recommendations.

The 1996 Compassionate Use Act, which authorized doctors to recommend marijuana to patients, defines a “primary caregiver” as “the individual designated by the person … who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.”

If convicted, the maximum sentence Keith could receive is four years and eight months in prison. His wife could be sentenced to a maximum of four years.

In July 1999, Keith was convicted of cultivating marijuana. He was sentenced to five months in jail and placed on probation for three years.

In 2000, the Whitakers were tried for possession of marijuana for sales. They were found not guilty and their marijuana was returned to them.


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