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By Anne Krueger, Staff Writer
San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune October 16, 1993.
Jurors decided yesterday that a La Mesa man who has the virus that
causes AIDS has a medical need to use marijuana and acquitted him on
two felony charges of growing marijuana at his home.
Samuel C. Skipper admitted at his trial that he grew the plants in
his house and back yard, but said he needed to eat the illegal drug
at each meal to fight off the nausea and weight loss that are often
symptoms of the virus.
Skipper, 39, who works as a gardener and installs telephones, hugged
his lawyer when the jury announced its verdict after only about two
hours of deliberation.
"I've never been happier in my life," Skipper said. "Cannabis
(marijuana) got a bad rap, and it really helps a lot."
Skipper, who took a marijuana-laced peanut butter ball to court
hoping to present it as evidence, only to have it immediately seized,
said he will continue to eat marijuana at every meal.
"I am not presently growing it, but I am using it and I'm not going
to stop," Skipper said.
Jury foreman Bob Lenzi, a 37-year-old La Jolla financial planner,
said jurors quickly agreed that Skipper proved his defense that he
had a medical need to use marijuana because he has the HIV virus that
results in AIDS and because he had shown symptoms associated with
"He proved that he had a necessity to use cannabis to save his own
life," Lenzi said.
If convicted of the two charges, Skipper could have faced as much as
five years and eight months in prison. But yesterday's acquittal does
not end his legal problems.
Because he pleaded guilty to growing marijuana in 1991, Skipper still
faces having his probation in that case revoked -- and the unlikely
prospect of being sent to jail -- for again being caught growing the
plants when narcotics agents went to his house twice this year.
And despite Skipper's acquittal, there's nothing to stop drug agents
from returning to his house and arresting him again if they find
marijuana there, said Deputy District Attorney David Williams.
Skipper's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Juliana Humphrey, said she
will ask the judge to remove a condition from Skipper's probation
that allows police to search his property without a warrant. Skipper
could then continue to grow marijuana at his home to alleviate
symptoms of the AIDS virus, she said.
"If that's something our society can deal with, then hopefully the
District Attorney's Office can, too," Humphrey said. "Hopefully,
that's the end of it."
Skipper said that while he has watched many of his friends with the
AIDS virus succumb to the disease using such drugs as AZT, he has
been able to maintain his weight and has shown few symptoms of AIDS
since he started regularly using marijuana.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor told jurors that legal drugs
are available to Skipper for every symptom of AIDS. Both sides
acknowledged that there is no drug that can cure the disease.
"It's a matter of choice, not necessity," Williams said.
Williams said Skipper, who acknowledged having little faith in
chose not to go to a physician and try conventional medicines to
treat AIDS symptoms. He told jurors they had to decide whether
Skipper's decision to instead grow and consume marijuana was
"To stay in your sanctuary and ignore the rest of the world is all
right," Williams said. "But it's not objectively reasonable when
dealing with a medical problem."
Humphrey told jurors her client should not be expected to wait for
other medicines to fail him and for his medical condition to grow
worse before he can use marijuana.
"How many ineffective, blind-alley lethal medicines do you have to
take and see someone die from before you can choose what you know
works?" Humphrey said.
One of the witnesses at Skipper's trial was glaucoma sufferer Bob
Randall of Washington, D.C. He is one of only nine people in the
United States who can legally use marijuana to alleviate his
For 15 years, ill Americans could apply to get prescription marijuana
to relieve the symptoms of serious illness. That changed in 1991 when
the Bush administration ended the Compassionate Investigational New
Randall said legislatures in 35 states have asked the federal
government to lift the ban. President Clinton's surgeon general,
Joycelyn Elders, has indicated she may do that.
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