Man arrested for marijuana after neighbors report gunshot in Basalt |

Man arrested for marijuana after neighbors report gunshot in Basalt

John Colson

A Basalt man arrested Wednesday for firing a gun within the Basalt city limits may end up facing felony drug charges, despite claims that the drugs involved are needed for pain relief.

Samuel Vaughan, 56, was arrested after he allegedly fired a pistol at the Roaring Fork River behind his home, located on Two Rivers Road across from the elementary and middle schools in Basalt.

According to his attorney, John VanNess, Vaughan fired the gun as “a kind of salute” to celebrate the recent release of a teen-age friend of his from prison.

But neighbors called the police, who allegedly saw a pipe on a table in Vaughan’s apartment when he opened the door to their knock.

Vaughan allegedly admitted he had some pot on the premises and reportedly revealed four and a half ounces of marijuana packaged in 18 small plastic baggies. He said he uses the marijuana to combat the physical effects of an illness.

He was arrested, taken to the Pitkin County Jail and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and with prohibited use of a firearm. He was released from jail after posting an $11,000 bond.

Though possession of less than eight ounces of pot is normally a misdemeanor, the dealing charge and the presence of a deadly weapon at the scene may put Vaughan before District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss on felony charges.

Prosecutor Lawson Wills said this week he is still mulling the case over and hasn’t determined what charges Vaughan will face.

VanNess said his client has had a prescription for Marinol, the pharmaceutical form of marijuana, for treatment of a medical condition “for a number of years.”

VanNess said that if Vaughan were found guilty of a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence would be 18 months in prison.

But, VanNess continued, state law dictates that if a gun is involved in the commission of a drug offense, it puts the offense into the “class II” felony category, with a potential sentence of up to 48 years in prison.

“So what they’re doing is taking a case that carries 18 months in jail and turning it into a case that carries a possible 48 years,” VanNess declared.

“And they’re taking a case where what he’s been doing would have been legal in a very few months,” he said, referring to when the Colorado Legislature figures out the details of a new medical use of marijuana law approved by state voters last year.

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