Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

February 26, 2010
Sacramento airport traveler's pot stash offers test case

Matthew Zugsberger, an ex-deep sea diver badly injured in an oil platform accident, will step into a Sacramento courtroom Monday with his awkward limp - and stride into the debate over how much weed medical marijuana users can possess.

Zugsberger, now 33, was arrested with more than three pounds of pot at the Sacramento International Airport in December, 2008. He says he was taking it to New Orleans to have a master chef whip it up into pasta dishes and ice cream desserts for his use.

Prosecutors say Zugsberger was illegally transporting marijuana and possessing for sale, offenses that could earn him four years in prison.

Zugsberger has an interesting defense - a Mendocino County physician's recommendation saying he can possess five pounds of pot and 25 plants to treat his pain.

A Sacramento County Sheriff's sergeant testified that Zugsberger presented a pot referral from "a laser hair removal doctor."

His case is closely watched by pot access advocates.

Last month, the California Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot impose limits on the amount of marijuana medical users can grow or possess.

The ruling left open authorities' right to arrest patients who possess more than eight ounces of dried weed and six mature or immature plants. But they can't be convicted purely on the amount of pot.

"I am a test case, absolutely," Zugsberger said.

He has pushed the legal envelope before. Last year, after Zugsberger and a girlfriend pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession in Washington, a judge agreed to return 10 pounds of weed.

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About Weed Wars

Peter Hecht

From its pot fields to politics, California is the epicenter for America's marijuana discussion. This blog covers news, trends and people of the California marijuana story.

Contact reporter Peter Hecht at phecht@sacbee.com

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