Charges dropped against man who grew pot as medicine

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Prosecutors have dismissed felony drug charges against a man who said he was growing marijuana for medical reasons.

Kenneth R. Wells, 57, of St. Charles County, was charged in 2008 after a house fire led investigators to find plants that added up to 1.4 pounds of marijuana in his basement. He said he used the marijuana to deal with chronic epilepsy. His attorney, Wayne Schoeneberg, said he received a letter this week from Prosecutor Jack Banas’ office saying Wells will not be prosecuted if he does not have any new violations during the next two years.

“I think that’s a good resolution all around,” Schoeneberg said.

Banas said the case dragged on for two years, and he was concerned about how a jury would view the facts. Wells had no prior convictions, and there was no evidence he tried to sell or give the marijuana to anyone else, Banas said.

Wells said he was glad the charges were dropped. “I’ve been confident all along that there was something wrong with the search procedures, and I always had hopes that we could get that exposed,” he said.

Wells could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if he were found guilty.

Circuit Judge Nancy Schneider had ruled against allowing Wells to use medical necessity as a defense. But Banas said keeping Wells’ medical issues out of the case would have been difficult. Had jurors not found him guilty, it could have “muddied the waters” regarding the local legal system’s approach to medicinal marijuana.

Both Banas and Schoeneberg said Wells’ case is not a sign that prosecutors will turn a blind eye to those looking to grow the plant for their own use.

“Missouri is not one of those states that’s going to run to the legalization side any time soon,” Banas said. “It is still illegal to grow marijuana.”

Said Schoeneberg: “I think it’s a situation that applies specifically to the facts of this case. I would caution anybody who is getting involved with marijuana to not think that this is going to be the norm under any circumstances.”

Wells said he no longer has any marijuana plants. He said he takes a variety of prescription drugs to help with pain and seizures. He said he had used marijuana as an “adjunct therapy.”

“It’s just something that helped more,” he said.