[Canniseur: People’s medical conditions are helped by cannabis. This story illustrates the potential legal problems when people with only the best intentions try to help those in medical need.]
Paul Koren has been dubbed ‘Santa Claus’ meets ‘Walter White,’ but instead of selling meth, he gave out medicinal weed. For free.
One Ohio resident may spend the last years of his life in prison for growing medical weed.
Paul Koren, 70, is a retired engineer. He began growing a few years ago when his nephew grew ill from a neurodegenerative disease. After helping his nephew, word got around, and Koren eventually set up a 17-bed grow operation in the basement of his Miami Township home.
On the night of Jan. 7, robbers broke into his house, assaulted him, and demanded money and drugs. According to The Enquirer, Koren didn’t have a pile of cash on-hand because he never sold marijuana. He lives off his retirement fund, so he always gave away the meds for free, he said.
The home invaders wrecked the farm and left him with no cash. After a noisy getaway, neighbors called the cops.
When the authorities arrived, they seemed more concerned with what remained of Koren’s weed plants and not so much with the armed intruders who pistol-whipped him.
A search of Koren’s home discovered 36 weed plants and over an ounce of psychedelic mushrooms, according to a police affidavit. The cops also discovered what they thought was a dead body locked in his freezer, but it just turned out to be one of the suspected robbers, Kyle Hughes, hiding inside.
Regardless of Koren’s allegedly good intentions, the police charged him with drug trafficking and cultivation of marijuana. Ohio decriminalized marijuana way back in 1975, but possession of more than 100 grams will catch someone 30 days in jail and a small fine.
In Koren’s case, cops claim he possessed 45 pounds of weed, or just over 20,000 grams, well above the permitted limits.
“I’m not a drug lord,” he told The Enquirer. “I am an advocate for the positive benefits and use of marijuana. I help sick people.”
Despite Koren’s affirmative defense, that may not be enough under the state’s newly launched medical marijuana program, which officially went live in Sept. 2018. In order to legally cultivate and distribute medical weed, growers must obtain a license from the state, and their facilities must pass stringent regulatory inspections.
Koren had neither a state license nor did the government greenlight his basement for growing weed.
On Friday, a judge will deliver Koren’s sentence. He could walk scot-free, or he could end up spending up to six years in prison.
In 2015, Ohio voters shot down a bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis.