Former high court judge acknowledges using pot -- it helps him sleep

By Lee Mueller, Eastern Kentucky Bureau, Aug. 25, 1995

Former state Supreme Court Justice Combs acknowledged yesterday that he smokes marijuana at night, saying the illegal drug helps him sleep. Combs, 71, who resigned his seat on the state's highest court in June 1993 for health reasons, said in a telephone interview that he discovered "quite some time ago" that marijuana makes him sleepy.

He did not say precisely how long he has been smoking pot.

"I sleep like a baby" afterward, said Combs, who has had two strokes and suffers from a memory disorder. "I have a sleeping problem... I probably could have gotten a prescription for it if I'd asked my doctor, but I never did."

The medicinal use of marijuana is banned in the United States, although it was allowed by the federal government on a case-by- case basis from 1976 to 1992 for conditions such as glaucoma and nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Combs and his 16-year old son were charged last week with cultivation and possession of marijuana after Kentucky State Police searched his Floyd County home and reported finding 4 ounces of processed pot, drug paraphernalia and one plant growing in a container outside the home.

Combs did not say yesterday whether he owned any of the marijuana found in his home, but he indicated he considered what he does at home to be his own business. "I never go out and I never drive" after smoking marijuana, he said. "I just stay in the privacy of my own bedroom....

"One joint would probably last me one or two days."

The search of his home upset Combs and his attorney, Eric Conn, who have suggested that some evidence was planted by state police. Conn also has filed an affidavit by Combs son, Alfred Ghent Combs, that claims troopers appeared to be pressured by Floyd District Judge James Allen Jr. to find something during the search.

State police have denied the allegations,. and Allen said this week he was bewildered by the affidavit. "I've always gotten along with Dan Jack," Allen said. Conn, however, said Wednesday he has obtained corroborating evidence to the younger Combs sworn statement from Janice Keller, a friend of Combs from South Carolina.

Allen has scheduled a hearing Tuesday in Floyd District Court on the misdemeanor charges against Combs and a motion by Conn for Allen to step down from the case.

Appeals Court Judge Paul D. Gudgel, a member of the state's Judicial Retirement and Removal Commission, said yesterday the panel could not investigate or censure Combs if he smoked marijuana while he was a judge because it has been more than 120 days since Combs was on the bench.

Asked yesterday whether they were aware that Combs used marijuana, three judicial commission members -- lawyer Joe Savage of Lexington, Jefferson District Judge Charles Scott and Carroll District Judge Stan Billingsley -- said no. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert F. Stephens could not be reached for comment last night.

Capt. Robert Forsythe, commander of the Pikeville state police post, who has defended his officers' conduct during the raid at Combs' home, declined comment last night.

Combs said yesterday he had no idea who could have told police he might have marijuana in his home. Combs said he had not talked about it, and his two teenage sons wouldn't, either. Police have declined to say who tipped them.

Conn said Combs agreed to let state police search his home only after they told him they had a search warrant. But Forsythe said no search warrant was obtained, because Combs signed a consent form, permitting search. "If we'd had a search warrant,. we wouldn't have needed his consent," he said.

Combs says drug searchers were like 'Gestapo'
Lexington Herald-Leader 9/4/95

by Jamie Lucke

Former Kentucky Supreme Court Judge Dan Jack Combs says state police invaded his Floyd County home "in a storm trooper sort of way" when they charged him with possession of marijuana last month.

But Combs, 71, who admits using pot to help him sleep says he's not fighting the misdemeanor charges to make the police look bad, even though he referred to the officers who conducted the search as "the Gestapo."

"There's no one who has more respect for law officers than I do if they're conducting themselves in a proper manner," Combs said yesterday in Lexington on "Your Government" on WLEX TV (Channel 18).

"What a person does in the privacy of his own home to me is sacrosanct and certainly should not be disturbed or invaded in a storm trooper sort of way as was done in my case."

On the advise of his attorney, Eric Conn, Combs declined to say whether he's still smoking himself to sleep. Last week Combs said he had quit using the illegal drug since he and his son were charged with possession and cultivation of marijuana Aug. 18.

Combs admits to smoking a joint on the frequent nights when "it looks like I'm going to be walking the floor to the wee hours."

But he repeated his claim that the 4 ounces of marijuana and one marijuana plant that police say they found at his home did not belong to him.

Combs and Conn say the evidence would have had to have been put there by someone other than Combs.

Combs' son Ghent, 16, and a friend of Combs who were at the house at the time have sworn that one of the state police officers reported by phone to someone he called Allen that they couldn't find anything illegal at Combs' residence.

Yesterday, Combs said he does not know whether the trooper was talking to Floyd District Judge James Allen, as originally alleged by Combs' son. The former justice said he knew only that Allen was the "name that was mentioned when the Gestapo was there the first time."

Combs stepped down from the Supreme Court in 1993 because of health problems. Yesterday, he said a memory disorder prevents him from being sure whether he used marijuana while still on the Supreme Court.

A psychiatrist testified in a civil case several years ago that Combs admitted using marijuana when he still was on the court.

In any case, Combs said it would not have affected his legal judgments. He challenged legal authorities to review the majority opinions and many dissents he wrote for signs of bias or unclear thinking.

Combs said he regrets letting police enter his home, which is in Betsy Layne, without a search warrant.

Combs. who also refused to say who supplied him with the drug, said he thinks marijuana should be legal "if it's used carefully and sparingly."

Combs said he uses it only "when I'm ready for bed. I never go out. I never drive. No one's in my room when I do it -- smoking, that is."