After more than two years, the case against medical marijuana advocate Shona Banda may soon come to an end.
Banda and her attorney, Kenneth B. Miller of Wichita, finalized a plea agreement on Tuesday.
In April, she pleaded not guilty to the charges of child endangerment, distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property, unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia at the home she shared with her then 11-year-old son.
As part of the plea agreement, Banda agreed to plead no contest to the third count of possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture, a level-five drug felony, according to Deputy Finney County Attorney William Votypka. In exchange for her plea, the State of Kansas has agreed to dismiss the remaining charges. The court approved the plea agreement.
Banda’s trial was set to begin Monday, but it will no longer take place.
Banda said she has moved to Spokane, Wash., where medical and recreational marijuana are legal. When asked how she feels about the plea agreement, she said, "I feel ecstatic about it because I was the one who asked for it."
"I'm so upset. I really am," Banda added. "I'm upset that I had to leave my hometown. I'm upset that I had to leave my family. I'm upset that I had to leave my countrymen. But I am wise enough to know and understand that yes, I would have won my trial, but I could not have gone through four to six more years of appellate and Supreme Court cases."
At her sentencing, scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 13 in Courtroom 304 of the Finney County Courthouse, Votypka said it will be recommended that Banda be given probation while remaining under the penal authority of the Kansas Department of Corrections, even while living in Washington state.
Under the recommendations of the current agreement, a prison sentence would be announced but not executed at Banda's sentencing, and she would remain on probation and report to her probation officer monthly by mail.
Votypka said the plea agreement was reached after the prosecution gave factual basis supporting the charge of possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture.
The Garden City Police Department executed a search warrant at Banda’s residence on March 24, 2015, and discovered vaporizers belonging to Banda that were used for the purpose of extracting oil from marijuana. The oil contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a controlled substance on the federal and state levels in Kansas.
Banda’s trial originally was scheduled for June 26, but was continued twice as a result of health complications stemming from her battle with Crohn’s disease. Banda became an advocate for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes after using it to treat her disease.
Had Banda been convicted of all of the charges against her, she could have faced up to 30 years in prison.
Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug on the federal level and is illegal for medical and recreational use in Kansas.
But now that she is in Washington, Banda said she is going to be testing new strains to help local patients.
As for her farewell message to the people of Garden City, Banda said, "They have to keep fighting."
"What I have been able to do with education in that town is going to make it easier for any one person to fight any bogus cannabis charges," she said. "These people have a chance to fight back, and that is amazing, and I hope they do."
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org