An operator of a Fresno medical-marijuana dispensary defiantly told a judge this morning that he didn’t have the legal authority to put him in jail on charges of violating a court order that prohibits his type of business.
Rick Morse, owner of Medmar in the Tower District, had his first hearing in Fresno County Superior Court following his arrest Tuesday.
At the start of his arraignment, he laughed when Judge Donald Franson Jr. started to read him his rights.
In a defiant tone, he then told Franson that the proceedings against him were unconstitutional because the city zoning ordinance that prohibits him from selling marijuana to ill patients was unconstitutional.
Franson, however, told Morse that whether the city ordinance was constitutional was not the issue. The judge told Morse that he was in court because he failed to appear at a previous court hearing to enter a plea to charges of violating a court order that prohibits the sale or distribution of marijuana.
Franson remained cordial to Morse, even though Morse blurted out his defense while the judge tried to explain him his rights and why he was in court.
With a handful of supporters watching, Morse, 48, accepted Franson’s offer to be represented by the Public Defender’s Office. The judge then took a break to allow Morse to talk to his lawyer.
During the break, Morse’s son, Brandon Morse, knelt down and prayed in the lobby of the downtown Fresno civil courthouse.
"I prayed for the Lord to soften the hearts of these corrupt officials and to restore our constitutional rights and our trust in America," he said after his prayer.
Ignoring a court order carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. Brandon Morse, 24, said in a telephone interview following his father's arrest that God -- not Franson -- determines whether his father can distribute medical marijuana to ill patients. "This is not the first time someone has been wrongfully imprisoned for their faith," Brandon Morse said.
He invited the public to join him and his father on a hunger strike until his father is freed from jail. "We are on a mission from God," he said.
Rick Morse’s arraignment will resume at 10:30 a.m.