A young Mendocino man whose legal plight has become a cause c??re for medical marijuana advocates appeared in Mendocino County court Thursday in hopes of halting extradition to Texas.
Mendocino County Judge Ann Moorman told Chris Diaz' attorney, Don Lipmanson, he needed to submit that request to Texas authorities.
"I don't have any jurisdiction," she said. But Moorman said she will consider releasing Diaz on bail at a hearing she then scheduled for Tuesday.
Supporters of Diaz, 22, an asthmatic and father of two children, ages 1 and 4, contend that he is emblematic of the problems wrought by inconsistent laws governing medicinal marijuana.
"The medical marijuana community here is up in arms about the criminal exposure he's facing," Lipmanson said.
While it's in Mendocino County legal for Diaz to use marijuana to treat his asthma, it is not in Brown County, Texas, where he was arrested in 2010 for possessing small amounts of pot and hashish. He faces a sentence of five years to 99 years in prison if convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, as he is charged.
Knowing that, Diaz decided not to return to Texas once he was released on bail after 80 days in jail.
Diaz had about a quarter ounce of marijuana and 14 grams of concentrated cannabis when he was pulled over while driving at night in West Central Texas, said Lipmanson, his attorney. "This is by California standards a very small amount," Lipmanson said.
Diaz' family and supporters believe that medicinal marijuana patients from one state should be able to safely pass through another with their medicine.
Texas law is the reason the family moved to California in 2007, said Diaz' mother, Nona Martin.
Diaz had been sickly since birth, suffering from severe asthma and allergic to about everything, she said. He's been hospitalized at least two dozen times because of the asthma. He later developed life threatening reactions to traditional asthma medications, including collapsed lungs, Martin said.
When Diaz was 16, his physician recommended he try marijuana, she said. The doctor also recommended that Diaz move to a state where using marijuana is legal. The family, including his pregnant girlfriend, settled just outside the town of Mendocino.
Martin said she was at first skeptical of having her asthmatic son inhale marijuana, even with a vaporizer. But she said she's now sold on the treatment.
Marijuana helps asthma in two ways, according to Dr. William Courtney, a marijuana advocate and candidate for Congress who attended Thursday's hearing. It relaxes the airways and acts as an expectorant, inducing coughing that dislodges mucus, he said.
Diaz could die if he's imprisoned for long without his medication, Courtney said. His risk is increasing in the Mendocino County jail, where he's been held since Oct. 30 on a Texas arrest warrant, Courtney said.
Diaz' supporters also contend his arrest was made without adequate cause. Diaz, who was visiting an ailing grandmother, initially was told he was stopped for having an expired vehicle registration, but that was not true, his mother said. The officer later admitted he stopped the car because it was late at night and it had California plates, she said.
Because Diaz could not produce a drivers' license — which he does not possess — his vehicle was searched and the marijuana was found, Martin said.