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Man who said marijuana was medicinal is charged with selling

Man who said marijuana was medicinal is charged with selling

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ST. CHARLES COUNTY • An O'Fallon, Mo., man who says he was growing marijuana for his own medicinal use now faces a charge of distributing the drug.

Ken Unger, 52, of the first block of Hornbean Court, previously was charged with felony possession with intent to distribute, although he said he was only using it to ease constant pain from a Navy injury. Unger was recently indicted by a St. Charles County grand jury for alleged felony distribution.

O'Fallon police said in a search warrant application that they stopped a man on Sept. 3 as he left Unger's house and an officer smelled "a strong odor of marijuana" coming from the man's truck.

The man told police he had a "fresh bud" of marijuana in his truck that was drying. He did not tell police where he got it.

He was given a municipal citation and later pleaded guilty.

The man's name appears on a list of grand jury witnesses filed with the indictment last month.

St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas said information in the search warrant application led him to take the case to the grand jury.

"That clearly indicated to me that he's not growing it for his own use," Banas said.

Unger, a Navy veteran who was injured when a crane hook struck his head in Grenada in 1983, disputes the allegation.

"I grew purely for my own health," Unger said Friday. He said he used marijuana to treat chronic pain. He said it was effective and had less severe side effects than prescription drugs like morphine.

Police said they found 48 marijuana root systems in Unger's basement. Unger said police found two marijuana plants and about four root systems.

Unger's attorney, Joseph P. Welch, said: "The government is going to have an extremely difficult time proving that any allegedly distributed marijuana came from my client."

Unger was arrested in September, around the same time prosecutors decided to drop their case against Kenneth Wells, a St. Charles County man who grew pot in his house for what he said was medicinal use.

Unger has asked for the same treatment in his case. Banas, though, has said the cases aren't the same, and he pointed to the grand jury indictment as an example.

Unger's case continues to receive attention from Oakland, Calif., based Green Aid: The Medical Marijuana Legal Defense and Education Fund. He said the group's efforts helped raise money for his legal defense.

Welch said the case isn't about drugs.

"This is a case about the government trying to take this man's safe and effective medicine away," he said.

The case could set a precedent in Missouri, he said.

Banas said growing marijuana remains illegal in Missouri.

"There is no defense of medical marijuana in this state," he said.

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