Man pleads not guilty in medical marijuana bust

Posted June 30, 2010, at 10:45 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:36 a.m.

SKOWHEGAN — A Pittsfield man who claims drug agents improperly seized his medical marijuana during a March 19 raid pleaded not guilty to cultivating marijuana Wednesday in Skowhegan District Court.

James Fowler told District Court Judge Charles LaVerdiere during his initial court appearance that he wishes to have his case adjudicated by a jury in Somerset County Superior Court. Fowler also requested a court-appointed attorney. To both requests, LaVerdiere suggested that Fowler file the proper paperwork.

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Fowler, who has a prescription for medical marijuana, says he was growing plants legally for himself and three other patients, which is allowed under the state’s medical marijuana law. But county and state drug agents still seized 19 plants during the surprise raid, leaving Fowler with six plants that he is allowed to have for his own medical use.

Somerset County District Attorney Evert Fowle has said he would consider dropping the charges against Fowler if Fowler provides paperwork that proves all his plants were legal. Fowler claims he has the paperwork and tried to show it to the agents who raided his home, but says he won’t give the paperwork to Fowle unless it happens in a courtroom.

LaVerdiere set another District Court hearing for Fowler on Aug. 18, but that likely will be changed if Fowler follows through with a request that his case to be moved to Superior Court. When LaVerdiere asked Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Neil McLean Jr. whether the state is seeking a prison sentence for Fow-ler, McLean said, “It is a possibility.”

Class D marijuana cultivation carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Fowler told the Bangor Daily News last month that he is seeking compensation from the county for the illegally seized marijuana plants.