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Mom accused of giving child cannabis challenges charges

Angela Brown, left, is hugged by supporter Amy Aaberg Jorgenson as she arrives at the Chippewa County courthouse in Montevideo for her court appearance Monday. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

MONTEVIDEO — Lac qui Parle County’s charges against a Madison mother who treated her son with medical cannabis appears headed to trial, after the defense rejected an offer to settle the case during an appearance Monday in District Court in Montevideo.

Defense attorney Michael Hughes said Angela Brown, 38, is not guilty of child endangerment and would not offer a plea as part of a settlement offer. Speaking after Monday’s brief court hearing conducted in neighboring Chippewa County, Hughes said that the prosecution offered a one-year stay of adjudication if Brown pleaded guilty.

Under a stay of adjudication, no conviction would appear on her record provided she complied with all the conditions of sentencing.

Brown is charged with two gross misdemeanors: endangering a child — permitting to be present when possessing a controlled substance and contribute to the need for child protection.

The charges carry a possible sentence of two years in prison and a $6,000 fine.

She is accused of giving her 15-year-old son Trey medical cannabis to treat his pain from a traumatic brain injury.

Hughes, of Bend, Oregon, told the court they intend to challenge the basis for the charges. The court will schedule an omnibus hearing to determine if there is probable cause for the charges.

Hughes also indicated his intent to file motions seeking dismissal of the charges. Among the motions he intends to file is “an interest of justice’’ claim that the charges should be dismissed since Minnesota has approved legislation that will allow for the use of medical cannabis beginning July 1, 2015.

About 20 supporters of Brown held signs outside the Chippewa County courthouse prior to the morning hearing. They joined Brown, her son, and her husband David in the courtroom. Supporters held signs stating “Our Pains Are Real,’’ “Go After Real Criminals’’ and “Plants Heal.’’

Lac qui Parle County filed the charges June 19 after Brown had surrendered a tincture of cannabis oil to a Lac qui Parle County sheriff’s deputy. Brown said the oil helps relieve the chronic pain and muscle spasms her son suffers. He suffered a traumatic brain injury when struck by a baseball in 2011. He experiences migraines and severe muscle aches and spasms, according to the family.

Angela and David Brown said they have received support from across the state and beyond since she was charged. Supporters outside of the Chippewa County courthouse on Monday included Brandon Borgos, the Independence Party candidate for attorney general, and Patrick McClellan, of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care. McClellan had testified to state legislators about his use of medical cannabis to alleviate symptoms resulting from muscular dystrophy.

McClellan, of Bloomington, said he was “outraged’’ when he learned that Brown had been charged for using medical cannabis to treat her son after Minnesota approved legislation that will allow for its use. “A slap in the face,’’ he said.

He called on Governor Mark Dayton to speak out on behalf of Brown. He stated that in a meeting with the governor during the legislative session, Dayton had expressed his understanding for parents who turn to medical cannabis to treat their children.

Others outside the courtroom said they came to show support for Brown and are upset that she would be charged with an offense for an act that will soon be legal in the state. Friend Amy Aaberg Jorgenson said that news of the charges against Brown has been featured by national media from ABC television’s 20/20 program to the Huffington Post. There’s also a lot of social media interest in her plight, she noted.

Brown said she would like to see the charges dismissed so that she can get on with her life, and she thanked those who came to offer their support.

There is an online petition circulating that asks for the charges to be dropped. Borgos on Monday also delivered to Brown the signatures of 23 office seekers seeking that the charges be dropped.

Hannah Nicollet, the Independence Party candidate for governor, said in a news release Monday that she has signed the petition and she urges Gov. Dayton to pressure prosecutors to drop the charges.

“Angela’s son cried himself to sleep every night and became suicidal until he was treated with cannabis oil because no legally prescribed pain medication relieved his pain,” Nicollet said. “No mother should have to choose between her child and breaking the law.”

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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