More than eight months after Ravalli County law enforcement officers arrested medical marijuana patient Bob Meharg at his Florence home and charged him with three felonies, the Ravalli County Attorney’s Office abruptly moved to dismiss the charges Sept. 14.
“In 34 years working as a lawyer…I’ve never had a case dismissed like this,” says Julio Morales, Meharg’s attorney. The move came at a hearing in anticipation of Meharg’s trial, which was scheduled for Oct. 16, and Morales says County Attorney George Corn didn’t explain the sudden sea change. Neither Corn nor William Fullbright, the assistant county attorney handling the case, returned calls from the Independent.
Meharg, 52, a partial amputee who suffers from diabetes and a degenerative bone disease, had his doctor’s approval to use marijuana to ease his chronic pain. But at the time of his arrest, he wasn’t on Montana’s medical marijuana registry, which protects medicinal users, due to worries about federal prosecution. However, Montana’s law, which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2004, includes an “affirmative defense” that protects patients who document usage with their doctors in medical records. Since this aspect of the law hadn’t been tested in court, Meharg’s case was expected to bring clarification to a muddy issue.
The many items that Ravalli County had seized from Meharg—including gardening equipment, magazines and a pipe—will now be returned. His car, which was seized on the grounds that it aided Meharg in illegal actions, was returned in May after months of legal wrangling, during which time Meharg says he was forced to hitchhike to Missoula for doctor and lawyer appointments. Because of the medical hardships and sizable attorney fees that Meharg has encountered in the charges’ wake, he says he hasn’t yet ruled out civil action.
“I’m grateful that they had this lucid moment of common sense,” Meharg says. “But at the same time, I’m not very happy with nine months of my life being absolutely destroyed. The amount of stress and medical problems this has caused has just torn me up. I’m just glad it’s over.”