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Rick Fabian

Rick Fabian, an amputee and disabled Vietnam veteran who credits 12-step programs with saving his life, went through a lot of soul-searching and consulted a lot of friends and relatives before deciding to try marijuana as medicine.

Now, caught between the burglars and would-be burglars who have hit him twice in the last month, and the six police who traumatized his family a few nights ago [March 2002] after he reported the attempted burglary, Fabian lets you know he's about as angry as a man in a wheelchair can get.

Sober since 1990, Fabian suffers from severe chronic pain, Hepatitis C and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He is also allergic to narcotics. Many other common pain-control techniques have provided him little or no relief.

After many conversations with his wife, her mother (who lives with them), his sponsors at Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as other friends and spiritual advisers, Fabian got everyone's consent to try marijuana as medicine. He did so after applying for a card from the Oregon Health Department, and everyone agreed that marijuana afforded him a better quality of life.

In a letter he wrote last year in support of Dr. Phillip Leveque, who qualified him under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, Fabian said "I am not on any pain pills at all now. I am not on any more antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil, either. Acupuncture and medical marijuana have replaced 180 milligrams of morphine daily and I am not lethargic feeling as when I was on it. My itching from the morphine was becoming unbearable.

"My wife is very grateful to have a 'friendly husband' as opposed to a grouchy, complaining, in-pain, morphine- and Prozac-affected husband. My wife will gladly testify at any hearing as to the effect of medical marijuana on my PTSD. If anyone dares to tell her that medical marijuana does not work for PTSD -- they'd better prepare to lose that argument! She lives with me -- she knows!

"All of my friends in recovery whom we've told of my medical marijuana use . . . agree medical marijuana is much better for my medical condition than anything else I've ever tried. The Prozac and Paxil that the VA tried put me in the hospital two times. I want my second decade of sobriety to be better than my first."

Unfortunately, a few Sunday nights ago, a burglar stole four small marijuana plants from Fabian's backyard. Although he suspects it was just kids -- who else would steal immature plants? he theorizes -- he told Voter Power soon afterward, "I will not feel good ever again in this house."

Even so, seeing no alternative, he and his wife began planning to erect a six-foot fence around their yard, to buy a big dog, and to implement or beef up other security measures. He also made a trip to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Troutdale the next morning to report the theft.

"It was pretty good the way he came around," Fabian chuckles as he recalls officer Michael Gate. It won't give away the story to say he's the "good" cop Fabian dealt with. After taking Gates to a private room in the cop shop and telling Gates he wanted to report the theft of four marijuana plants, Fabian was impressed at the officer's cool response. Gates came out to his property to look around and was "respectful and serious," though he decided that dusting for fingerprints would prove fruitless.

It's a truism in marijuana-cultivation circles that once you've been ripped off, you should never grow again in the same location. Sure enough, a few nights ago at 2:30 a.m., Fabian's wife scared a burglar out of their backyard. The would-be thief left behind a backpack and other personal items after cutting through one lock, apparently with bolt cutters he managed to keep.

Medical pot growers are besieged in a dangerous world. If police catch the thief, would he try to impress other other inmates by telling them the whereabouts of a pot garden?

Pot growers worry about such things, with good reason. Who carries out the most home invasions, police or rip-offs, can't really be documented with certainty.

"We reported it again to the Multnomah County Sheriff's office and got no response for 10 hours," Fabian says. "I finally found a sheriff parked four blocks from our house and explained the situation."

"Shortly afterwards," he says, "six sheriff's deputies (four of them drug cops) came to my house. They treated my wife like a criminal, insulted and intimidated her and were very smart-ass towards her. One even read her her rights! Her 87-year-old mother has been traumatized," Fabian said. "She says she's more afraid of the police coming back than anyone taking anything from the backyard," he told Voter Power.

Fabian's wife, Elaine, who was recovering from an eye operation and hence unable to read the officers' badges, says "Officer Matthew Roberts arrived with another officer to investigate the attempted burglary. As soon as I let them into the house to view the backpack that Rick recovered from the backyard, Roberts' partner commented on the smell he was smelling. I informed the officers that we were both medical marijuana patients. Roberts' partner then apparently forgot that he was supposed to be investigating an attempted burglary and went full tilt for a marijuana bust under the guise of 'learning about medical marijuana.'"

"As soon as I was through showing them the toolshed [that had been broken into], describing the attempted burglary and showing them the evidence, the other officer asked to go back inside. Once inside, he asked to see the grow. Since we knew we were legal, I showed it to them. Then Roberts' partner expressed his belief that we were only allowed two plants, claiming that he had read the law and that that's what he recalled.

"I corrected him and went onto the computer to print out the OMMA law for his edification. While I was printing it out for him, he called in the narcs, apparently trusting his memory more than the document being printed out from our computer. Four narcotics officers arrived, led by Sean Christian. Officer Christian was not familiar with the law either, and claimed that we were in violation even though he was provided with proof that our renewal applications were pending.

"He then proceeded to harass and intimidate me, even going so far as to read me my rights."

Voter Power called the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Friday to find out if its officers understand the law and whether traumatizing lawful medical marijuana patients and an 87-year-old woman who have been victimized by burglars is county policy. The officer who returned the call says the 87-year-old mother-in-law was sitting on the sofa and did not seem "traumatized" by what happened.

Voter Power will try to help Fabian find a new, secure, off-site location where he can grow his medicine. Any qualified patients or caregivers who might be interested in helping him or partnering with him are encouraged to get in touch with Voter Power or the AAMC Oregon Cannabis Exchange.

"I have learned that calling and reporting a crime is more dangerous, intrusive, and threatening to one's home and family and piece of mind than all the thieves in the world! Thanks for spreading the story to all our friends. It is shamefully disgusting that the law officers we employ to "protect and serve" us have their own agenda. They do not know the OMMA law and intimidate people as though they do. Oregon voters voted for a law and the law enforcers chose to treat the elderly, sick, and handicapped as guilty rather than with any compassion."


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