The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office will take a more patient approach to marijuana-growing cases in the future after a Scotia man initially indicted on a felony charge ended up being sentenced for a misdemeanor because of the changing weight of the drug.
Scotia police raided the apartment of Roberto Bidinost, 42, of Sanders Avenue, in May 2011, finding 54 marijuana plants. Officials said the plants were in varying stages of cultivation — one evidence photo showed about 40 of the plants, with most still small enough to be in cups.
At the police station, the newly cut plants were weighed, without the root ball or stalks, officials said, and the total came out to 2.2 pounds. By the time the marijuana plants were weighed at the state police lab, though, the usable, dried marijuana was calculated at a weight of just more than 4 ounces, according to officials.
The final weight of marijuana, as far as the law goes, is the dried, smokable drug, with water weight and other portions of the plant not included. A state police spokesman declined Tuesday to offer a general formula for weight loss through drying, but several online sources suggest water can make up as much as 70 to 75 percent of the original weight.
Prosecutor William Sanderson said he brought the weight loss to the attention of Scotia Police Chief Peter Frisoni, who investigated and appeared satisfied with the original weight and handling of the evidence. Frisoni was out of the office Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
Sanderson indicated that the state police lab did not seem surprised by the weight loss.
In the meantime, Bidinost was indicted in November on a felony charge of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana. He was accused of possessing more than 16 ounces. As the case progressed and trial neared in March, prosecutors asked for the state lab analysis. When that came back, Sanderson said, the weight was much less than required for the felony charge.
Bidinost ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of growing cannabis. He is to be sentenced Friday to 60 days in jail.
Sanderson said the district attorney’s office will take a different approach to marijuana-growing cases in the future.
“When I look at a case now, whenever it involves a fresh grow situation, we’ll put the brakes on it right away to see what the lab gets before we indict,” Sanderson said. “If all he was ever guilty of was a misdemeanor, he shouldn’t have faced a felony.”
Sanderson added they don’t often see such cases.
Bidinost is represented by attorney John Della Ratta, who said Bidinost has a history of mental health problems and was self-medicating with the marijuana he was growing.