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This time, Pasco man's marijuana fashion statement goes unchallenged

Alfred Robinson, left, stands next to lawyer Michael Minardi before Circuit Judge Mary Handsel on Monday in New Port Richey. In January, a different judge threatened to hold Robinson in contempt if he wore his marijuana shirt to court again. 

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Alfred Robinson, left, stands next to lawyer Michael Minardi before Circuit Judge Mary Handsel on Monday in New Port Richey. In January, a different judge threatened to hold Robinson in contempt if he wore his marijuana shirt to court again. 

NEW PORT RICHEY — The last time Alfred Robinson wore his pot shirt to court, he was put in handcuffs.

So, understandably, he was a bit more trepidatious when he got dressed Monday morning for another hearing in his cultivation of marijuana case. Still, he wore the shirt, with its large green marijuana leaf on the back and the slogan "I'm a patient, not a criminal" on the front.

But he had a backup plan. While he sat there waiting for Circuit Judge Mary Handsel to call his lawyer's name, the purple collar of a button-up shirt peeked out around his neck.

Just in case.

"I was a little nervous about wearing the shirt (again)," Robinson said. "But somebody has to stand up to this."

The 57-year-old self-described "medical marijuana missionary" was arrested in July after Pasco County sheriff's deputies found two marijuana plants on the 5 acres where he lives in Shady Hills. He had more plants, he said, but he burned them before deputies arrived.

Robinson, who's had several marijuana arrests dating back to 1979, said he uses the drug to alleviate his severe back pain. He has degenerative disc disease, and the court file says he also suffers from anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and chest pains.

"I don't know if the marijuana kills the pain or makes me forget the pain," he said, "but it doesn't matter whether it does. It just does."

At his last hearing in January, Circuit Judge William Webb had Robinson put in handcuffs and threatened to hold him in contempt if he wore the marijuana T-shirt to court again. His lawyer, Michael Minardi, filed a motion to disqualify Webb, citing First Amendment concerns and a fear that Robinson wouldn't get a fair trial.

That motion was granted, so Minardi and Robinson found themselves in front of Handsel on Monday.

Minardi moved to suppress the evidence — namely, the two marijuana plants because of the way deputies entered Robinson's property. The arrest report said the Sheriff's Office got Robinson's consent. Robinson and Minardi say there's a no-trespassing sign.

Minardi also moved to have the charge dropped, citing the passage of measures in other states legalizing medicinal marijuana use.

Before he left the courtroom, Robinson teared up as he talked passionately about the reason he supports the legalization of marijuana.

"I want it to be legal so I can help other patients who need it," he said. "I'll grow it for them, and I'll give it to them."

If Handsel noticed Robinson's shirt, she didn't mention it. She scheduled a followup hearing for June 14 to consider both of Minardi's motions.

Outside the courtroom, Minardi said he was pleased with the outcome.

"We've gotten a new judge who obviously didn't threaten to hold him in contempt," he said.

"And that's a positive," Robinson added.

Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229, jsilman@tampabay.com or @Jonsilman1 on Twitter.

This time, Pasco man's marijuana fashion statement goes unchallenged 04/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 7:45am]
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