Man gets medical marijuana license while cultivation charges pending

A 31-year-old Norwich man who was arrested last year for growing marijuana at his home on Harland Road has since received a state license to use marijuana for a medical condition.

Joseph J. Tamborra was granted entry into a community service labor program Tuesday in New London Superior Court. If he performs 120 hours of community service and attends 15 drug education classes within the next year, the court will dismiss the charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of more than 4 ounces of marijuana, operation of a drug factory and use of drug paraphernalia.

“I wasn’t growing that for any other reason beside my medicine,” Tamborra told Judge Susan B. Handy.

According to attorney Paul Costa, Tamborra had never been involved with the court system before this arrest. He suffered back and hip injuries in a car accident and has “very serious” Crohn’s disease, which enabled him to receive a medical marijuana card from the state while his criminal case was pending, Costa said.

“He does realize that how he was going about this was wrong,” Costa said.

Connecticut passed a law in 2012 that enables patients receiving treatment for debilitating medical conditions to apply for a medical marijuana card with the approval of a doctor. To date, 356 patients have been certified for the program, according to Claudette Carveth, a spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Protection.

The law does not allow patients to grow their own marijuana but permits them to obtain the drug through an approved dispensary. The state is in the process of creating regulations for dispensaries and the producers who will provide the medical marijuana.

Tamborra, who posted a $25,000 bond following his arrest, was being supervised by the Alternative Incarceration Center, which routinely checked his urine for illegal drug use, while his case was pending. Prior to receiving his marijuana card, the level of THC, the chemical found in marijuana, had decreased, according to court records. The level increased again after he received the medical marijuana card.

Tamborra said that due to his condition, he had lost 90 pounds.

“Since I got my medical marijuana card, I have gained 30 to 40 pounds,” he said.

Tamborra said he had been working as a bellman at Mohegan Sun but was unable to work following his accident. His attorney said he hopes to return to work eventually.

“You won’t see him again, your honor,” Costa said to the judge.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Norwich police went to Tamborra’s home on July 19 after a man with whom he was in a dispute told police that Tamborra was growing marijuana on the second floor. Confronted by officers, Tamborra denied that he was growing the plants and took police into the room to show them “there’s nothing in here.” There was a “heavy smell of raw marijuana” in the room along with grow lights, ventilation units, herbal presses and electronic ballasts, according to the affidavit.

Tamborra admitted he had moved his 17 plants from the room, placed them in a garbage bag and hid them in the backyard.

k.florin@theday.com

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