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Dave Kolpack, Associated Press, Published October 30 2013

Medical pot case appealed to ND Supreme Court

FARGO — A North Dakota couple accused of trying to sell marijuana obtained by a prescription in Washington state have filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

Brian Kuruc and Rebecca Larson, of Dickinson, entered conditional guilty pleas earlier this month that acknowledged possession of the drug but denied intent to distribute. They were arrested in January at a motel in Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo.

The appeal is based on two opinions by East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin, including one that said the jury could not be told that the marijuana prescription was a valid defense.

Kuruc's attorney, Mark Friese, said the amount of marijuana his client possessed was well within the limits of the law.

"North Dakota law plainly states it is lawful to possess a controlled substance with a valid prescription or order of a practitioner," Friese said Wednesday. "Mr. Kuruc is hopeful that his appeal will result in straightforward application of the law to the facts of his case."

Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick was not available for comment Wednesday.

The lead prosecutor, Kara Schmitz Olson, has said she thought it was a good idea that the case go to the Supreme Court rather than to trial. She said the prescription from Washington state appears to be valid. Washington law requires that a person be diagnosed with a "terminal or debilitating medical condition" to obtain a medical marijuana certificate.

Kuruc works as a certified professional welder and Larson is a quality control analyst in western North Dakota.

Corwin said in a ruling issued Oct. 1 that North Dakota law considers marijuana to be a Schedule I controlled substance, which is determined to have no accepted medical use for treatment in the U.S.

"Other states have passed laws to the contrary, but this case must be decided based on the statutes in effect in North Dakota," Corwin wrote.

Corwin's first ruling in the case, issued on July 16, denied a motion to have the evidence thrown out because of an alleged illegal search and seizure.

Friese and Larson's attorney, Charles Sheeley, said there's no evidence such as cash, cellphone records or ledgers that would show the defendants were going to distribute marijuana.

"Our clients had no intention of selling this," Sheeley said.

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