Marijuana: Medicinal or Criminal?
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Ohio passed a law nearly 20 months ago making medical marijuana legal, but the official program has yet to begin. In the meantime, doctors are recommending marijuana and patients are using it.
Local 12’s Investigative reporter Duane Pohlman investigates a case that will likely test whether using medical marijuana, which was legalized in Ohio in 2016, is still a crime.
Arrested and Charged
The dash cam in an Ohio State Highway Patrol car clearly shows the moment at 4:30 in the afternoon on February 24th, when a trooper pulled over a sedan for speeding on Interstate 475 near Toledo.
What happened next to the four people inside the car may soon decide whether marijuana is still a crime, or will be treated as a medicine
It smells good, not like cigarettes,” Trooper Tedd Bergeron is heard stating as he leans into an open window on the passenger side.
He and other troopers will soon discover more than ten pounds of products made from marijuana in the trunk of the car, which the group from Cincinnati had just purchased from a medical marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“Everyone here put their hands up on the seats for me,” Trooper Bergeron states clearly, as he runs the reports on those in the car.
The driver, Amanda Meyer allegedly has a warrant for her arrest from Fairfield County and was allegedly driving with suspended license.
“You have a warrant out for your arrest,” the trooper explains to the now cuffed Meyer, adding, ” For, it looks like smuggling contraband.”
Meyer and the others begin telling Trooper Bergeron they have medical marijuana on board and they say they have medical marijuana cards, issued by Dr. Ryan Laken.
“I have a card,” Meyer is heard explaining to a female trooper. “But that's not legal in Ohio,” the trooper answers.
Now, all four of the Cincinnati Cincinnati residents, Deron Elliot, Ian Overton, Stephanie Kidwell and Amanda Meyer are facing multiple felony drug charges including possession and trafficking of marijuana and hashish that could bring prison sentences of more than thirty years.
In Lucas County Court, in downtown Toledo, the four were arraigned, though Elliot explained to the judge that Meyer could not be there because she was still in jail on that warrant.
Each of them explained they could not afford attorneys, so the judge assigned them each public defenders.
Outside, Elliot told his story for the first time on-camera to Local 12’s Duane Pohlman.
Duane: “A state patrol officer stopped you and says what?”
Elliot: “He says that in Ohio, medical marijuana is illegal in the state of Ohio.”
Duane: “And you got arrested?”
Elliot: And I got arrested and took to jail
Elliot explained he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, a result of a violent incident from his youth.
“I have PTSD and have night terrors and a lot of stuff and I lost a bunch of weight,” Elliot said, adding he has other conditions that qualify as a medical marijuana patient.
During his arrest, Elliot told the trooper, “I got atrial fibrillation.” When the trooper asked, “What's that?’ Elliot answered, “I got heart disease.”
Elliot also has a history of drug-related arrests and charges, something he readily admits is part of his past.
Duane, “You've had convictions.”
Elliot: “Right. I cleaned my record up. I've been clean.”
On the day he was arrested, Elliot was on probation for one of those past charges.
Duane: “What's your probation for?”
Elliot: “It's for a charge for a conveyance charge from five years ago.”
Another passenger in the car, Ian Overton explains he, too has had a criminal past.
Overton: “I did 4 years in prison.”
Duane: “For what?”
Still, all the past mistakes, charges, convictions and sentences could soon pale in comparison to the charges all four now face related to that medical marijuana that they believed was legal in Ohio.
“We're facing 33 years in prison,” Elliot explained, as he peered back to the courthouse.
Duane: “If you were still doing the criminal's part?"
Elliot: “I would have stayed in Cincinnati.”
Elliot: “Just gotten it off the streets.”
Instead, their 8-hour trip ended abruptly and now their final destination could soon be a prison cell.
“It's torn my life apart,” Elliot said, adding “It's breaking me down.
When asked If the he’s scared, Overton didn’t hesitate.