Court of Appeals considering pot case

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Alaska Court of Appeals is considering a case that could set precedent in the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling protecting marijuana possession for personal use in the home.

A lawyer for a North Pole man convicted in 2001 of possessing marijuana in his home has appealed the conviction based on a claim that a nearly three-decade-old Alaska Supreme Court decision declaring personal pot possession a state constitutional right is still the law.

The Court of Appeals' decision will represent the first time a precedent-setting court decides whether the Supreme Court ruling still protects marijuana possession for personal use in the home despite a 1990 voter initiative that criminalized possession of any amount of the drug in any location, said Bill Satterberg, the defense attorney who submitted the appeal.

Satterberg's argument is based on the assertion that voters did not have authority to cancel a state constitutional right when they passed the initiative, making the Supreme Court's decision still valid.

The case before the Alaska Court of Appeals, Satterberg said, could produce the decision that clarifies the issue. The case started when North Pole police and drug agents arrested David Noy, 41, at his North Pole home on July 27, 2001.

Noy was arrested after a patrol officer smelled marijuana coming from the home, where Noy and a group of people were outside barbecuing salmon.

After a long encounter about whether Noy would let officers into his house, North Pole police and drug agents who responded searched the residence and found five live pot plants, growing equipment, some loose marijuana and paraphernalia, according to testimony and court documents.

A jury convicted Noy of one count of sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, a misdemeanor charge of possessing less than eight ounces of marijuana. Eight ounces or pot or less is defined in Alaska law as an amount for personal use, while anything more than eight ounces is defined as an intent to deliver.

Noy was sentenced to community service. Satterberg appealed the conviction. He said he expects a decision soon because the three appeals judges who make up the court usually take about six months to render a decision.

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