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Pot defendant insists on medical marijuana defense

Protesters claimed David Patterson's trial was unfair. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Sarah Smith

A settlement conference for a Laporte man charged with two counts of Fifth Degree Drug Possession went awry Monday in Hubbard County District Court.

David Paul Patterson, 51, insisted on voicing his opinions in court, often at the expense of his own legal counsel.

Patterson is using a medical marijuana defense to his alleged crimes of possessing marijuana for sale. He said he was making marijuana oil for medicinal purposes.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne asked for several restrictions on testimony in a motion in limine and offered redacted statements to protect the identity of undercover drug agents, which is standard in many drug cases.

“My client doesn’t like any of the restrictions,” said defense attorney Frank Bibeau. “It complicates his ability to defend himself.”

Outside the courthouse, several protesters held signs protesting freedom of religion and speech, which they claimed Patterson has been denied.

Monday, Judge Paul Rasmussen allowed Patterson to interject his thoughts into the proceedings numerous times, but warned the defendant he will have to cede some of those rights to his attorney during trial, scheduled for the week of Oct. 28.

Rasmussen said court rules would not allow both men to cross-examine witnesses, and urged them to adopt a game plan so only one would be speaking to a given witness in trial.

Even though the state has authorized limited use of medical marijuana as of Aug. 1, that was well after Patterson’s arrest in January.

Rasmussen announced that he would apply the law that existed at the time of the Laporte man’s arrest, meaning possession of marijuana carried a penalty of five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine upon conviction.

The complaint stated Patterson possessed seven pounds of pot, five firearms, a digital scale and $1,025 in currency when the Paul Bunyan Task Force raided the home.

“Based on the agent’s knowledge and experience, possessing a quantity of almost seven pounds of marijuana is more than a person would possess for personal consumption,” the amended complaint noted.

Patterson said that he wanted a “trial by jury,” not a “jury trial” as discussed in court.

Rasmussen agreed.

“I decided I couldn’t wait for the governor to stop vetoing” bills to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, Patterson said, noting that legislature had been passed twice in the state but was vetoed at the governor’s office.

“I had friends that were sick,” Patterson added. “I think the laws are illegal.”

Dearstyne pointed out that Patterson was not a licensed marijuana grower for the state of Minnesota.

Rasmussen warned Patterson that the defendant didn’t want to push the rules of court to the point that “a judge’s patience starts to slip away,” while assuring Patterson he would do his best to give the defendant a fair trial.

Patterson said that the process he was being subjected to was “ridiculous” and accused the court of “tying my hands behind my back.”

“I will apply the law as of the day of the offense,” Rasmussen said again. “It might not be the trial you want to have.”

And he declined to rule on some of Patterson’s objections, saying he couldn’t make those decisions until trial.

Rasmussen also urged Patterson to listen to his attorney, even though “sometimes attorneys give their clients information they don’t want to hear.

“I’ll do my best to give you a fair trial,” Rasmussen repeated.

Patterson has a lengthy history of convictions, including a prior drug possession conviction in Hennepin County, two separate charges of carrying a handgun without a permit, violating Hubbard County’s solid waste ordinance and a number of traffic violations.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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