Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

April 8, 2010
Judge gives 120 days, sets pot limit for Sacto airport defendant

Matthew Zugsberger, an injured oil rig worker and medical marijuana user convicted of transporting three pounds of pot at Sacramento International Airport, was given a short jail sentence today and a limit on how much marijuana he can carry in the future.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland Candee sentenced Zugsberger, 34, to 120 days in jail and five years probation. He also ordered him to not transport any more than 28 grams of marijuana at any time without permission of his probation officer.

Zugsberger was also barred from carrying any pot into or out of California.

Zugsberger, who has been in custody for 33 days, could be out in 27 days with time off for good behavior. He could have served up to four years in prison.

But Candee's order means that Zugsberger cannot carry the same amount of marijuana while traveling in California as other medical pot patients are allowed.

In 2003, Gov. Gray Davis signed a law permitting patients with medical marijuana recommendations from physicians to possess six mature or 12 immature plants and eight ounces of dried marijuana.

Those limits were thrown out last month by the California Supreme Court. However, local
authorities can still detain patients found with more than 8 ounces if they suspect illegal activity.

Aaron Smith, California director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates rolling back marijuana laws and enforcement, said he was surprised the judge set a standard for Zugsberger well below the 2003 state limit.

"It seems kind of arbitrary and capricious," Smith said. "I would think the figure should at least be more consistent with what his medical needs are and at least be set at the state threshold. I haven't heard of anything like that."

In handing down the sentence today, Candee said the evidence in Zugsberger's trial indicated that "this is really not a personal use case."

Zugsberger was convicted March 9 of illegally transporting three pounds of marijuana duct-taped into a scuba suit and packed into a metal dominoes container in his luggage. He was also carrying a stash of pot in his pants as he prepared to board a flight to New Orleans.

He was acquitted of felony possession for sale and convicted of misdemeanor possession.

Zugsberger said he was taking the marijuana to Louisiana to have it mixed into baked goods and ice cream by his ex-wife, a gourmet cook, and another Louisiana master chef.

Zugsberger suffered crushed vertebrae while working as a scuba diver during an oil rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico. He got a medical marijuana recommendation from Mendocino County physician, whose standard pot referral says patients "may need to grow 25 mature plants and possess 5 pounds of cannabis" for yearly needs.

Zugsberger faces an upcoming trial in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana on charges of illegally shipping two pounds of pot to a former residence.

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