With the debate on medical marijuana still at a full boil in Los Angeles, a judge Friday ordered the return of 60 pounds of pot to a man after his attorneys successfully argued that a state law gave him the right to transport it.
Saguro Doven, 33, was initially charged with possession of marijuana for sale and transportation of the drug, a violation of the state's health and safety code.
The marijuana was bundled in individual bags that were tucked inside a larger duffel bag when Doven was pulled over on the 101 Freeway by a California Highway Patrol officer, according to court records.
But defense attorney Glen T. Jonas argued that his client was a member of a Venice-based medical marijuana collective and that he was authorized to transport the marijuana. The California attorney general's guidelines regarding medical marijuana indicate that collectives are allowed to both grow and transport quantities of marijuana for its members.
Jonas said the prosecution's expert witness, CHP Sgt. Richard Fuentes, was unqualified to render an expert opinion in the case because he lacked the knowledge required to distinguish lawful from unlawful possession and transportation of marijuana, according to court records.
Fuentes had testified that only caregivers can transport or carry large quantities of marijuana. The law, however, states that members of a collective may transport marijuana on behalf of the group and are exempt from prosecution.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Sterling agreed that the prosecution expert was unqualified and ordered the charge of possession for sale dismissed.
On Monday, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office asked that the remaining transportation count be dismissed.
Doven's attorney then asked for the 60 pounds of marijuana to be returned -- a request that was granted. Doven could have faced a maximum of four years in state prison if found guilty.
"Although justice was delayed, I am thankful it wasn't denied," Doven said.