Judge Orders Trial for Medical Pot User

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge ordered Wednesday that a 33-year-old Newbury Park man who uses marijuana for an ailment stand trial on felony charges of possession of an illegal drug for sale and cultivation of an illegal drug.

Judge Edward Brodie found sufficient evidence to order that Michael Loftus, who is disabled with an inner-ear ailment and uses marijuana to prevent dizziness and nausea, be tried on charges that carry a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in prison.

The ruling came after prosecutors maintained that Loftus' possession of a scale, nearly a pound of marijuana packaged in plastic bags, $4,300 in cash and 29 marijuana plants showed he was growing the drug for sale.

Arraignment is set for April 2.

The judge dismissed two counts of child endangerment filed, prosecutors said, because Loftus' young children had access to a hot marijuana growing lamp.

A 1996 state law allows for the medical use of marijuana but does not say how much a patient can possess. Last year, Ventura County law enforcement agencies set a guideline generally allowing possession of six plants or up to 1 pound of dried marijuana for medical needs confirmed by a doctor.

Most of California's 58 counties still have no quantity guideline and deal with possession on a case-by-case basis. Some allow possession of up to 99 plants and 3 pounds of the dried drug; and some allow as few as five plants and 1 pound of dried drug.

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