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Shupe avoids prison in medical pot case

Spokane medical marijuana dealer Scott Q. Shupe will avoid prison on drug-trafficking charges.

  “In this case it was clear you didn’t intend to break the law, which is in a state of flux as we speak,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said during a Tuesday sentencing hearing. “But the jury found you guilty. That’s what I’m stuck with.”

Eitzen imposed the lowest possible jail term under the state’s standard sentencing guidelines, which is six months given Shupe’s criminal history, but then delayed the punishment if Shupe appeals and comes up with a $5,000 bond.

He also was ordered to avoid selling drugs to anyone.

“I think it’s funny that he may be the only person convicted for a dispensary, which may be legal in a week,” said defense attorney Frank Cikutovich, referring to efforts in Olympia to clarify the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

“I think it was a complete waste of resources as far as the county is concerned.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Shupe, friends protest before sentencing

Scott Shupe and other medical marijuana dispensary supporters are protesting outside the Spokane County Courthouse right now.

 They'll be there until at least 4 p.m., when Judge Tari Eitzen is to sentence Shupe, 56, on three felony drug charges.

A jury convicted him last month in the first criminal case brought against a commercial dispensary owner in Washington.

Shupe, who has a previous felony conviction for a marijuana grow discovered at his home in 2006, said he hopes to avoid prison time. He still faces felony drug charges in Oregon related to a 2009 arrest.

It's been a big month for medical marijuana in Washington.

The state House passed a bill Monday that sets up a regularity system for dispensaries, and the U.S. Attorney's Office announced last week that dispensary operators and their landlords face federal prosecution if they do not shut down.

Most dispensaries remain open, and no law enforcement action has been reported.

Verdict a blow to booming pot shops

Local marijuana dispensaries hoping to earn Spokane the nickname 'Spokansterdam' may be considering a vacation.

Jurors on Thursday convicted dispensary owner Scott Q. Shupe (pictured) of possession, delivery and manufacture of a controlled substance for his work at Change, the first commercial dispensary raided in Spokane.

Marijuana advocates and law enforcement were awaiting the outcome of the trial as the number of dispensaries has skyrocketed since Shupe's arrest. 

Shupe's lawyer, Frank Cikutovich, had said he "kind of" hoped Shupe lost so he could take the case to the Court of Appeals "to get a ruling on what the law means."

Change co-owner Christopher P. Stevens was called as a witness for the prosecution but testified that Shupe never sold marijuana to more than one patient at a time and always kept receipts.

To avoid the debate over the meaning of the "at any one time" law, some dispensaries requires patients to sign a form appointing the dispensary as caregiver, then sign a form relinquishing them from caregiver duties after they receive the product because the law doesn't specify how long someone can be a caretaker.

Spokane police testified that Shupe was extremely upset when he was arrested in September 2009.

"He basically started yelling that he wasn't a criminal," said Detective Larry Bowman. "He yelled that the President of the United States smokes marijuana, that the U.S. Attorney General doesn't prosecute marijuana cases. He also stated that we were all stupid, stupid bastards; using the f-word a lot…It was very difficult to calm him down."

Soon, Shupe "again began yelling that the president smokes marijuana, and he was going to sue all of us," Bowman said. Cikutovich pointed out that while Shupe was upset, he did not resist arrest.

Cikutovich's law partner, Pat Stiley, said any prospective jurors who indicated they supported the legalization of marijuana were eliminated from the pool at Shupe's trial.

Shupe is to be sentenced April 12. He still faces felony drug charges in Oregon after he was arrested during a traffic stop with 4 pounds of marijuana and more than $18,000.

Marijuana dispensary trial begins today

A groundbreaking trial for the area's medical marijuana dispensaries is set to begin today in Spokane.

Scott Q. Shupe, 56, faces felony drug charges stemming from a 2009 police raid at Change, a pot dispensary he operated on Northwest Boulevard, near Maple Street. 

Prosecutors have said they believe dispensaries are illegal because they distribute marijuana to more than one patient.

But pot advocates note that the statute technically states a caretaker can provide to one person “at any one time.” Owners of medical marijuana dispensaries use that interpretation to justify their businesses; Shupe says he only sold marijuana to one patient in the business at a time.

The investigation began when a detective saw a TV news article about the business.

“The news story advised that Scott Shupe dispenses marijuana and that he grows, possesses and sells marijuana and that ‘it’s all perfectly legal,’” according to search warrants used in the September 2009 raid.

Shupe is represented by Frank Cikutovich. Teresa Border is prosecuting. Judge Tari Eitzen is presiding. Opening statements are expected this afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Trial for Change codefendant Christopher P. Stevens, 37, is scheduled to begin April 11.

While Spokane County authorities say the dispensaries are illegal, dozens are operating in the area, including one on Northwest Boulevard that offers to deliver.