Tuesday, December 30, 2008
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Categories: Drugstores, Medical Centers [Edit]
233 Hwy 174
Colfax, CA 95713
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Zip Code 95448
Phone Number (707) 481-8427
Website URL http://www.starbuds.net
S.F. police make second arrest in slaying outside pot club Chronicle Staff Report Tuesday, December 9, 2008
S.F. police make second arrest in slaying outside pot club
Chronicle Staff Report
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
(12-08) 16:17 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco police have arrested a second suspect in connection with the slaying of a man in September outside a Mission District medical marijuana dispensary, authorities said today.
Julius Hughes, 24, was arrested Friday at his home in Brentwood, police said. He is accused in the slaying of Roshawn Holden, 23, who was shot to death the night of Sept. 14 as he left the Mr. Nice Guy cannabis club at Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street.
Court records show that Hughes has a history of drug- and weapons-related offenses.
On Sept. 23, police arrested Ijeoma Ogbuagu, 30, in connection with the slaying.
Police said Holden and a friend had just left the marijuana club when they were approached and ordered out of their car at gunpoint. After Holden was robbed, he ran away and was shot as he fled.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Act) (Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.5, added by voter initiative in the November 1996 general election provides partial immunity for the possession and cultivation of marijuana to two groups of people: qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers.
Roger Mentch was arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 for possession and cultivation of marijuana for sale in Santa Cruz County. His conviction was overturned on appeal in October 2006, primarily because the appeals court believed the trial judge should not have instructed the jury Mentch was not authorized by the law to sell or distribute marijuana.
The California Supreme Court examined the appeal, and on November 24 held a person is not a "primary caregiver" under the Compassionate Use Act merely because that person is in charge of getting someone's medical marijuana. Giving someone care doesn't mean you're their "primary" caregiver.
A "primary caregiver" is defined in the Compassionate Use Act as "the individual who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person," The court went further, and unanimously held that not only does a primary caregiver under the Compassionate Use Act have to be what we might traditionally call a primary caregiver, but further held this relationship must also have been commenced at or before the provision of medical marijuana. The court stated: "[W]e conclude a defendant asserting primary caregiver status must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently provided caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana."
Some pertinent language from the Mentch decision is " a primary caregiver must establish he or she satisfies the responsibility clause based on evidence independent of the administration of medical marijuana. Under the Act, a primary caregiver relationship is a necessary antecedent, a predicate for being permitted under state law to possess or cultivate medical marijuana. The possession or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes cannot serve as the basis for making lawful the possession or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes; to conclude otherwise would rest the primary caregiver defense on an entirely circular footing."
News Hawk- BM www.rx215.com
Source: The Willits News
Author: Marc Komer
Contact: The Willits News
Copyright: 2008 The Willits News
Website:Self-Help Law: People v. Mentch Defines Marijuana Caregiver
Pot DEALER Choice Ends in Death
"THE POLICE USED A mini-dealer smoker female to target a medium dealer for a few pounts and they risk'd her life. What right did they have to risk her life for the investigation? Why didn't they Notify the AG like the video says? Why didn't they back out after the sudden changes? Then she was also buying a hand gun....huh with that much cash?? wow I know it doesn't make sense to me.. They claim she offered although they most likely gave her very little option.
Prime example - Never lay down or never roll over. Please patients, friends and community. Let's stop things like this, let's not be tempted by the laws "easy investigation tactics" - "
Read more here http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=5454035
California NORML Release - Dec 21, 2008 News: (1) California NORML agenda for 2009 targets changing federal law: http://www.canorml.org
California NORML Release - Dec 21, 2008 News: (1) California NORML agenda for 2009 targets changing federal law: http://www.canorml.org
California NORML Release - Dec 21, 2008
(1) California NORML agenda for 2009 targets changing federal law:
(2) California Police Chiefs Association called on the DEA to raid
medical marijuana facilities and undermine state law, according to a
letter submitted to the House Juciciary Committee.
(3) Warning: Marinol patients being tested for marijuana!
Cal NORML has recently heard increasing reports that Marinol
patients are being drug tested and denied employment for use of
marijuana. In particular, we have heard from legal Prop. 215
patients who were denied jobs despite presenting Marinol
prescriptions after being re-tested specifically for marijuana.
Until recently, Marinol and marijuana were indistinguishable on
the standard drug tests, so that patients with a Marinol prescription
had a valid medical excuse under federal law for testing positive for
marijuana. However, special testing techniques have been developed
that make it possible to distinguish the two by testing for
non-standard cannabinoids that appear in marijuana but not Marinol.
Until recently, these tests were expensive and rarely used except in
high-profile criminal cases. However, it appears that they are now
being routinely used by certain laboratories in cases where Marinol
use is claimed. In particular, we have heard reports of such
testing being used to disqualify Marinol-using Prop 215 patients by
the transportation industry and by Walmart.
Cal NORML has accordingly altered its drug testing advice to
warn against relying on Marinol RXs as a screen for marijuana use.
There is of course no valid scientific or health justification
for allowing patients to use Marinol but not marijuana. The only
purpose is to enforce compliance with the law. It is a tribute to
the power and influence of the drug testing industry that they have
prevailed in foisting the costs of this unnecessary and obnoxious
procedure on employers.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Portland grower sweeps the Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards with ³Lemon Pledge,² ³Train Wreck² and ³Dynamite.²
Portland grower sweeps the Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards with ³Lemon Pledge,² ³Train Wreck² and ³Dynamite.²
Rolling To Victory
December 17th, 2008
A very mellow gathering of 100 medical-marijuana users got some delicious
news at the seventh annual Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards on Saturday night.
³Apparently, the weed keeps getting better and better,² announced Russ
Belville, associate director of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws¹ Oregon branch.
Belville based his statement on the scores this year¹s 27 entries received
from a lucky pool of 28 judges who are medical marijuana patients. Each
judge got a gram of each type to sample over six weeks, and rate on
appearance, taste, aroma, potency, smoothness and medicinal effect.
This year¹s top entry received an 80 percent score. Last year¹s winner, 78.8
The crowd‹many of whom made trips throughout the night to a courtyard set up
outside the Ambridge Events Center in Northeast Portland for
medical-marijuana cardholders to smoke and vaporize their stash‹erupted in
Paul Stanford, head of a Portland-based national chain of medical-marijuana
clinics called THC Foundation (see ³King Bong,² WW, Dec. 12, 2007),
dominated this year¹s awards. Stanford collected first, second and third
prize for his Lemon Pledge, Train Wreck and Dynamite strains.
Stanford, who in past cannabis contests has never broken into the top three,
chalked the victory up to better tilling in his outer East Portland garden.
³We did a lot better job mixing our dirt this year,² he told WW after
collecting his glass trophies and ribbons.
David Verstoppen, the legendary Eastern Oregon grower who¹s won the past
three years and fell victim to a violent attempted weed heist (see
³High-Jacked,² WW, Nov. 12, 2008), had to settle for an honorable mention in
the ³best aroma² category for his Medicine Woman strain.
³This man is living proof that you can¹t keep a good man down,² Belville
told the crowd as Verstoppen took his ribbon after making the five-hour
drive from Long Creek.
The highlights of the evening were the cake table (chocolate, custard or
organic carrot) and the keynote address by Allen St. Pierre, head of NORML¹s
national office in Washington, D.C. He called for legalization as a matter
of ³cognitive liberty.²
³Of course we want to get high. This is self-evident. But we can get plenty
high under prohibition,² St. Pierre said. ³There¹s no moral reason why you
shouldn¹t have access to this incredible plant.²
St. Pierre bemoaned what he called the ³Balkanization² of the marijuana
movement, with hemp advocates, medical patients, pot decriminalizers and
hard-drug legalizers all staking out territory.
He noted a new phenomenon where retiring baby boomers are returning to their
youthful pastimes, including marijuana use, and contributing more money to
NORML. But he also said the organization needs new ways of reaching out.
³What if we had marijuana dating services?² he asked. ³How many of us are
with our spouse or partner because of the commonality of cannabis?²
FACT: NORML¹s Allen St. Pierre hinted he may move the group¹s office to the
West Coast, on the friendly side of America¹s ³marijuana Maginot Line.² He
said Portland is high on the list of possible homes. One audience member
promised plenty of ³green office space.²
Saturday, December 6, 2008
DO YOU TRUST IN CALIFORNIA?
Fiscal Year 2008/09
Fiscal Year 2007/08
Fiscal Year 2006/07
Fiscal Year 2005/06
Fiscal Year 2004/05
Total Issued To Date
*Medi-Cal Numbers are a subset of and included in the Patient Totals.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
PA'IA, Maui -- The head of a medical marijuana advocacy group on Maui
and six other men have been charged with running a drug trafficking ring.
The suspects were arrested Tuesday following a two-year investigation
surrounding the Patients Without Time organization located on Baldwin
Avenue in Pa'ia, said Capt. Gerald Matsunaga of the Maui Police Department.
As part of the investigation dubbed Operation Weedkiller, Maui
police, assisted by other county, state and federal law enforcement
agencies, recovered more than 335 plants, nearly 16 pounds of
marijuana, a small amount of hashish and more than $14,000 in cash
from several homes and businesses, he said.
"They exploited the medicinal marijuana laws to sell marijuana to
turn a financial profit," Matsunaga said.
State Rep. Joe Bertram III, D-11th (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), yesterday
defended Patients Without Time and its director, Brian Murphy, 53,
who was indicted on 13 offenses, including criminal conspiracy and
commercial promotion of marijuana. Bertram said the organization
provides marijuana to the disabled and critically ill patients
legally registered under the state's medical marijuana law.
"It's a godsend to sick people here on Maui. It's heartbreaking. A
lot of people now are left in the lurch. They were getting a medicine
that's safe and reliable and now it's gone," Bertram said.
"How are these people who have these permits supposed to have access
to this medicine that the state said is available to them? This is
Bertram, who obtained a medical marijuana permit in 2005 after
suffering a serious illness, said he is not officially connected to
Patients Without Time but is familiar with the group. He said any
money the organization accepted in payment for marijuana is used to
subsidize patients who can't arrange for their own supplies.
He said Murphy is "very strict" about making sure marijuana is
provided only to certified patients.
Murphy did not return calls yesterday seeking comment.
Matsunaga said Hawai'i's medical marijuana law does not allow the
sale of marijuana, and that the drug ring used Patients Without Time
and the state's medical marijuana laws group "to disguise their drug
trafficking organization." The illegal enterprise even hired men to
provide protection for the illicit operation, he said.
"Law enforcement officials predicted that these types of illegal
activities would occur once medical marijuana laws were passed in
Hawai'i," he said. "The investigation exposed how the drug
trafficking organization abused the medical marijuana laws and
philosophy to make a profit, and assisted people in becoming
inebriated from marijuana and other byproducts of marijuana."
The arrests do not signal a change in the police department's
enforcement policy regarding registered medical marijuana patients,
"There was nothing legal about the operation. You cannot sell
marijuana," he said. "We don't go after people with legitimate
medical marijuana permits if they are operating within the law. If
they are breaking the law, then they should be worried about getting arrested."
Indicted along with Murphy were Brian Igersheim, 31, of Makawao,
charged with 15 drug offenses; William "Bill" Cox, 48, of Ha'iku,
charged with five counts; Stuart Hirotsu, 48, of Wailuku, seven
charges; and Robert "Bobby" Armitage, 58, of Wailuku, Douglas
Kaleikini Sr., 54, of Wailuku, and John Cooper, 40, of Kihei, who
each were indicted on a single count of criminal conspiracy.
Nearly all had posted bail as of yesterday.
Matsunaga said police recovered a total of approximately 335
marijuana plants and cuttings, 5 pounds of processed marijuana, more
than 10 pounds of unprocessed marijuana, a little more than an ounce
of hashish, 100 marijuana-laced candies, a vehicle, $14,085 in cash,
and drug paraphernalia associated with marijuana growing and distribution.
He declined to provide additional details of the alleged marijuana
Assisting Maui Police Department's Criminal Intelligence and Special
Response Team in Tuesday's arrests were the Hawai'i Narcotics Task
Force, the statewide Marijuana Eradication Task Force, and the
Hawai'i Inter-Agency Mobile Police Apprehension Crime Task Force.
Bertram said the arrests underscore "the gray areas" in Hawai'i's
medical marijuana law and the difficulty patients have in legally
Under the law, a person must be certified by a physician to use
marijuana for "debilitating" medical conditions. Patients may possess
up to three mature marijuana plants, four immature plants and an
ounce of usable marijuana for each mature plant.
The Department of Public Safety said 4,644 medical marijuana users
were registered with the agency as of last month, including 866 on Maui.
The law allows the "acquisition, possession, cultivation, use,
distribution or transportation" of marijuana by certified patients
and their primary caregivers, but is not clear on what some of that
means in practice.
Matsunaga said it does not allow the sale of marijuana under any
circumstances. He also suggested the alleged drug trafficking ring
was involved in something more sinister than simply providing
seriously ill patients with therapeutic marijuana.
The Legislature this year approved a Bertram-sponsored bill that
would have created a task force to examine issues related to the
medical marijuana program, but Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed it.
Bertram said in 2009 he will push for further clarification of the
law and decriminalization of minor marijuana offenses.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Morse v. Frederick (06-278)
This page will continue to have further detail and analysis of the "Bong Hits for Jesus" case which was heard in the Supreme Court on March 19, 2007 and decided on June 25, 2007.
On the right are links to court documents and filings regarding the case.
Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit on somewhat narrow grounds, saying that the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" specifically advocated illegal drug use, the unfurling of the banner was close enough to be considered to be at a school-sponsored activity, and that Morse was allowed to censor the banner.
Text of the decision (pdf)
Early analysis from ScotusBlog:
Morse is a very limited holding -- essentially limited to the drug context. The Alito concurrence, joined by Kennedy, is controlling. He writes:
I join the opinion of the Court on the understanding that (a) it goes no further than hold that a public school may restrict speech that a reasonable observer would interpret as advocating illegal drug use and (b) it provides no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue, including speech on issues such as 'the wisdom of the war on drugs or of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.'"
The opinion of the Court does not endorse the broad argument advanced by petitioners and the United States that the First Amendment permits public school officials to censor any student speech that interferes with a school's "educational mission." See Brief for Petitioners 21; Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 6. This argument can easily be manipulated in dangerous ways, and I would reject it before such abuse occurs.
Speech advocating illegal drug use poses a threat to student safety that is just as serious, if not always as immediately obvious. As we have recognized in the past and as the opinion of the Court today details, illegal drug use presents a grave and in many ways unique threat to the physical safety of students. I therefore conclude that the public schools may ban speech advocating illegal drug use. But I regard such regulation as standing at the far reaches of what the First Amendment permits. I join the opinion of the Court with the understanding that the opinion does not endorse any further extension.
.... The Chief Justice's opinion, too, indicates that the case would have come out differently if the banner had "convey[ed] any sort of political or religious message," such as that involved in "political debate over the criminalization of drug use or possession," rather than (in the Court's view) mere "student speech celebrating illegal drug use." Debate, political and religious messages -- protected. "Celebration" of illegal activity (drug use, anyway) -- no go. That's the upshot.
Here are some other interesting points in the decision:
Justice Thomas' concurrence is a bit unusual. Basically, he said that he doesn't believe that students have any free speech rights at all, and he's just happy that this ruling limits them a little bit more.
Breyer in his dissent in part, concurrence in part says that the Court should have ruled that the Principal wasn't liable for damages since she was acting in good faith, but that the Court shouldn't have ruled at all on the First Amendment issue.
Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg dissented:
I am willing to assume that the Court is correct that the pressing need to deter drug use supports JDHS's rule prohibit-ing willful conduct that expressly "advocates the use of substances that are illegal to minors." App. to Pet. forCert. 53a. But it is a gross non sequitur to draw from these two unremarkable propositions the remarkable conclusion that the school may suppress student speech that was never meant to persuade anyone to do anything.
In my judgment, the First Amendment protects student speech if the message itself neither violates a permissible rule nor expressly advocates conduct that is illegal and harmful to students. This nonsense banner does neither, and the Court does serious violence to the First Amend-ment in upholding--indeed, lauding--a school's decision to punish Frederick for expressing a view with which it disagreed. [...]
it is one thing to restrict speech that advocates drug use. It is another thing entirely to prohibit an obscure message with a drug theme that a third party subjectively--and not very reasonably--thinks is tantamount to express advocacy. [...]
To the extent the Court independently finds that"BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" objectively amounts to the advocacy of illegal drug use--in other words, that it can most reasonably be interpreted as such--that conclusion practically refutes itself. This is a nonsense message, not advocacy. The Court's feeble effort to divine its hidden meaning is strong evidence of that. [...]
Admittedly, some high school students (including those who use drugs) are dumb. Most students, however, do not shed their brains at the schoolhouse gate, and most students know dumb advocacy when they see it. The notion that the message on this banner would actually persuade either the average student or even the dumbest one to change his or her behavior is most implausible.
The dissent, written by Stevens, also had this remarkable passage:
Reaching back still further, the current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our anti-marijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs. The ensuing change in public opinion occurred much more slowly than the relatively rapid shift in Americans' views on the Vietnam War, and progressed on a state-by-state basis over a period of many years. But just as prohibition in the 1920's and early 1930's was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana,9 and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product,10 lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting--however inarticulately--that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.
From Court may untangle student-speech cases with 'Bong Hits' by Tony Mauro at First Amendment Center.
The dispute arose in advance of the Winter Olympics of 2002. The Olympic torch relay was passing through Juneau as the torch was on its way to Salt Lake City, and Juneau schools decided to turn the event into a teachable moment by letting students watch.
At Juneau-Douglas High School, Principal Deborah Morse allowed students, under supervision, to watch the torch runner pass in front of the school. School cheerleaders and the pep band performed.
Some students watched from across the street as well -- significantly, not on school property. In that group, student Joseph Frederick had other plans for when the torch passed. As cameras recorded the moment, he and other students unfurled a large banner that read: "BONG HITS 4 JESUS." He later described it as a humorous, meaningless, and not at all pro-drug, message.
When Morse asked the students to take down the banner, all complied except Frederick, who asserted his First Amendment rights. Morse grabbed and crumpled the banner and suspended Frederick for five days. During a later discussion, according to his brief, Frederick quoted Thomas Jefferson to her -- and his suspension was increased to 10 days. Frederick sued in federal court.
[Note: the degree to which the event was "supervised" is open to interpretation. It appears that may have been much more informal, with no attempt to control whether students remained.]
The school won in the district court, but the 9th Circuit court overturned and ruled that the Principal (Morse) had violated the First Amendment rights of the student (Frederick) and could be held liable for damages.
The school board appealed the case to the Supreme Court, led by attorney Kenneth Starr (known primarily to the public for his role as special counsel in the Monica Lewinski blow job case), who is acting pro-bono. On December 1, 2006, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
This case deals with the free-speech rights of students versus the authority of schools to control certain messages. A separate issue deals with whether Morse had immunity from damages (the 9th Circuit ruled that she didn't -- that essentially she should have known that her actions were a violation of the student's free speech rights).
Complications include the fact that the speech took place off school property at a non-school event, and did not directly cause a disturbance to the educational process. There is also the question as to what the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" means. Frederick claims it was a nonsensical phrase he saw on a sticker that he thought would get attention. Those arguing for Morse say the phrase is clearly advocating an illegal act. This has the potential for some rather surreal discussions with the Justices.
Those on the side of petitioner Morse (Starr, D.A.R.E., etc.) also appear to want the Supreme Court to give schools wide latitude to identify and censor any drug-related speech as counter to their anti-drug/zero-tolerance/abstinance-only message mission.
Those opposed (Student Press Law Center, SSDP, etc.) are concerned for the potential of chilling a wide range of student speech, including speech off-campus, and including speech that may have political value.
Note: the ACLJ (much different than the ACLU) has joined in on the side of Frederick, although being strongly opposed to the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" message (whatever that is), because they're concerned that increasing the power of schools to censor student speech might one day be used to suppress religious expression.
(See links at right.) Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District established that schools may not suppress speech unless it provides a significant disruption to the educational process. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier dealt with the ability to control student speech that would likely appear to carry the sanction of school administration (such as a school newspaper or yearbook or a planned speech at a public event, where the school specifically provides the platform for the speech. Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser provides that even speech that doesn't substantially disrupt the educational process can be suppressed if it is sexually vulgar and lewd.
In Morse v. Frederick, those arguing for the petitioner Morse appear to be attempting to combine the three cases to allow suppression of drug-related speech that, in the opinion of school officials, undermines the school's propaganda efforts. This speech, they claim is, by its very nature, both vulgar significantly disruptive.
Those arguing on behalf of the respondent Frederick note that Frederick's actions did not fall into any of the three controlling cases.
An additional complication is that then Judge Alito wrote the opinion in Saxe v. State College Area School District, which analyzed the interplay of those three cases and determined that speech that did not specifically fall under those three was protected under the Constitution.
The 9th Circuit lays out the issues and points out some interesting quirks in the case.
Frederick's banner... was displayed outside the classroom, across the street from the school, during a non-curricular activity that was only partially supervised by school officials. It most certainly did not interfere with the school's basic educational mission.
- From 9th Circuit opinion, page 2478
The issue of "illegal" drug use is a little complicated under Alaska law. Alaska has an express constitutional right to privacy that the federal constitution does not have. The Alaska Supreme Court has held unanimously that the state had the burden of justifying its statute prohibiting marijuana use, and "no adequate justification for the state's intrusion into the citizen's right to privacy by its prohibition of possession of marijuana by an adult for personal consumption in the home has been shown." ... Frederick was an adult citizen of Alaska, not a minor, at the time he displayed the sign.
- From 9th Circuit opinion notes, page 2468-2469
Starr, the U.S. Government and D.A.R.E. lay out new areas of power for school administrators, while attacking libertarian principles.
Here, had Principal Morse failed to react to Frederick's inappropriate display, she would have foregone an opportunity to teach her students--including Frederick-- that they should be law-abiding citizens. And she would have failed to protect her students from further exposure to a harmful message.
- From DARE brief, page 21
... an effective anti-drug program must not only teach the dangers of drugs; it must also protect impressionable young people from the countervailing effects of peer pressure. At a minimum, such a program entails prohibiting student advocacy of illegal drug use in school or at school events, where students are entrusted to the schools' care. [...]
If schools permitted advocacy of illegal drugs, such speech could counteract, if not drown out, the schools' anti-drug message, especially because of peer pressure. Permitting students to make light of the school's anti-drug message or launch a pro-drug use campaign would undermine both that message and the school's disciplinary authority generally. [...]
The juxtaposition between an event honoring amateur athletic competition and the use of marijuana made the speech particularly disruptive. [emphasis added]
- From U.S. Government brief, page 13, 17, 18
... the court of appeals substituted its unforgiving libertarian worldview for the considered judgment of school officials (and school boards) in seeking, consistent with Congress' statutory mandate, to foster and encourage a drug-free student lifestyle. [...]
As to both the First Amendment and the law of qualified immunity, the court of appeals' uncompromisingly libertarian vision is deeply unsettling to public school educators across the country. The decision below is doubly -- and dangerously -- wrong.
- From the Morse brief, page 15
The Student Law Center notes the "new" provisions being requested by the U.S. Government, and point out the educational value of protecting the Constitution.
There is likewise no constitutional exception, as Petitioners argue, for "subject-changing" speech that diverts the audience's attention away from the school's preferred message. [...]
Robust independent student speech is fundamental in a democratic society. Not only is it constitutionally safeguarded, but it also provides students with a powerful and vital civics lesson. This Court has stated repeatedly that the fact that schools are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes. [...] ( It is most important that our young become convinced that our Constitution is a living reality, not parchment preserved under glass. ).
- From the Student Press Law Center brief, page 5 and 29.
From the Supreme Court hearing:
MR. KNEEDLER: ... a, school does not have to tolerate a message that is inconsistent with its basic educational --
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, that's a very -- I find that a very, a very disturbing argument, because schools have and they can defined their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students, under the banner of, of -- of getting rid of speech that's inconsistent with educational missions.
- From the Supreme Court transcript, page 20
It's a little early to make predictions at this point, and my idealism tends to be a handicap for accurate guesses, but it's always interesting to speculate.
Start with this statement, for example:
"The student has a better case than the school," said Martha Minow, professor at Harvard Law School. "But the trend of the Supreme Court has been toward curbing student speech and increasing deference to school administrators. If the school district wins here, it could have important ramifications."
That's the general sense that I'm getting from a number of directions. That if you analyze the case strictly on Constitutional grounds or even on precedent, Frederick wins easily. But conventional wisdom is that the Court will side with Morse and overturn the 9th Circuit. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled in favor of governmental authority in recent years, particularly if the drug war is invoked (which may be why Starr is pushing that button so hard).
On the other hand, the Court has been a protector of speech more than any other rights, and the potential new school powers that Starr asserts as necessary, are blatantly offensive to free speech principles.
Finally, the Court could just wimp out and focus their opinion on the immunity issue.
Ross Runkel in the Supreme Court Times predicts for Morse, but uses as part of the reasoning that Frederick was advocating an illegal act, something that is not clearly supported in the filings. Runkel somehow claims that the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is in its very nature not a "lawful opinion" (as opposed to the armbands in Tinker) -- a rather bizarre and frightening notion -- one which would actually make the Alaskan Supreme Court guilty of unlawful opinions regarding marijuana.
Early reactions to the Oral Hearings:
SCOTUSblog, as always, has great analysis: here, here, and here
The Supreme Court on Monday toyed with the notion that public school officials should have added discretion to censor student speech that they may interpret as advocating use of illegal drugs. But this was only a flirtation, not a warm embrace. During the argument in Morse v. Frederick (06-278), a clear majority of the Justices showed significant skepticism about creating a wide exception to the curb on suppression of student speech that the Court spelled out in 1969 in Tinker v. Des Moines School District
As blog colleague Marty Lederman has pointed out in the post below, a sweeping exception to Tinker had the visible support Monday of only Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Antonin Scalia, who seemed to be competing to lay out the most generous view of officials' discretion to enforce school-preferred messages.
Coverage from PBS
Crumple Zone: Drug Warriors Push Broad Censorship of Student Speech by Jacob Sullum at TownHall
Dahlia Lithwick in Slate
We've come a long way since "Fuck the Draft."
Up in Smoke at the High Court by Dana Milbank
So maybe this is why all those figures in the Supreme Court friezes are wearing togas.
New York Times editorial
The Bush administration joined the school district in arguing that schools have broad authority to limit talk about drugs because of the importance of keeping drugs away from young people. But if schools can limit speech on any subject deemed to be important, students could soon be punished for talking about the war on terror or the war in Iraq because the government also considers those subjects important.
Washington Post editorial
WHAT IS a bong hit 4 Jesus? We're not sure, and we doubt anyone really knows what the phrase means -- which is one reason the Supreme Court ought not to regard it as prohibited speech.
Shortcut address to this page:
Location of incident. Frederick was standing across Glacier Avenue (Route 7) opposite the school.
Court Documents Online
Text of the Supreme Court decision (pdf)
Court transcript of March 19 Hearing (pdf)
Briefs in the Supreme Court case
(all pdf files)
Petitioner's Brief (on behalf of School Principal Morse)
Respondent's Brief (on behalf of the student Frederick)
Petitioner's Reply to Respondent's Brief
Joint Appendix (affidavits, policies and documents referred to by both sides)
Amicus Curiae briefs (briefs from interested outside parties who feel they have relevant arguments to add to the case)
U.S. Government (on behalf of Morse)
D.A.R.E. (on behalf of Morse)
National School Boards Association (on behalf of Morse)
Student Press Law Center (joined by Feminists for Free Expression, The First Amendment Project, The Freedom to Read Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. on behalf of Frederick)
National Coalition Against Censorship (joined by American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression on behalf of Frederick)
American Center for Law and Justice (on behalf of Frederick)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (on behalf of Frederick)
Certiorari documents (regarding requesting the Supreme Court to consider the case)
Petition for Certiorari
Brief in Opposition
Amicus briefs related to Certiori or earlier arguments:
D.A.R.E. brief (on behalf of Morse)
National School Boards Association brief (on behalf of Morse)
Rutherford Institute (on behalf of Frederick)
Liberty Legal Institute (on behalf of Frederick)
LAMBDA Legal Defense and Education Fund (on behalf of Frederick)
Drug Policy Alliance (on behalf of Frederick)
Christian Legal Society (on behalf of Frederick)
Center for Individual Rights (on behalf of Frederick)
ACLJ (on behalf of Frederick)
Alliance Defense Fund (on behalf of Frederick)
9th Circuit Opinion
Arguing the Case
For petitioner Morse:
Kenneth W. Starr
Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Los Angeles, CA
For respondent Frederick:
Douglas K. Mertz
Mertz Law Office, Juneau, AK
Other cases with relevance
Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser (1986) -- Whether school officials may prohibit a vulgar and lewd student speech at a student assembly even if the speech does not create a substantial disruption.
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier -- To what extent, consistent with the First Amendment, may educators exercise editorial control over the contents of a high school newspaper produced as part of the school's journalism curriculum
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District -- The case established that public school students did not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gates."
Saxe v. State College Area School District -- a 3rd Circuit ruling written by then-judge Alito -- extensively reviewed the interplay of the three cases above.
Sites with legal information on the case
Supreme Court Times
First Amendment Center
Medill School of Journalism
Websites of interested parties
Juneau School District pages about the case
National School Boards Association
Free Expression Policy Projeft
American Center for Law and Justice
Student Press Law Center
American Civil Liberties Union
Joseph Frederick, from a yearbook photo.
Frederick's years since unfurling the banner have been... interesting. He received a settlement from the Juneau Police Department for harassment happening after the Bong Hits incident, and his father received a settlement from his employer -- the school district's insurance company (he claims he was fired for not pressuring Joseph into dropping the suit). Joseph Frederick is now teaching English in China.
Articles of Interest
'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' Goes to the Supreme Court by Tom Kizzia in the Anchorage Daily News is a good feature on the case, with additional information about Frederick and his difficulties since the banner incident.
Justices to Hear Landmark Free-Speech Case by Robert Barnes in the Washington Post.
The most important student free-speech conflict to reach the Supreme Court since the height of the Vietnam War...
Free Speech Case Divides Bush and Religious Right by Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times:
What galvanized most of the groups on Mr. Frederick's side was the breadth of the arguments made on the other side. The solicitor general's brief asserts that under the Supreme Court's precedents, student speech "may be banned if it is inconsistent with a school's basic educational mission."
The Incident on Glacier Avenue: 3/19/07 Argument by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog
If the Supreme Court on Monday finds itself interested in the facts in a case coming up for argument, it might never get to the law.
Morse v. Frederick Timeline
Note: The author of this page is not a constitutional scholar or lawyer, but an interested party with some knowledge of Supreme Court law, constitutional principles and drug policy, who has followed this case closely. This guide is intended to be an informational tool for lay people who want to know more, not to provide legal expertise.
This page will continue to be updated throughout the life of this case.
Drug Policy Reform Links:
Alternet: Drug Reporter
ACLU Drug Policy
Americans for Safe Access
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy
Cato Institute: Drug War
Change the Climate
Christians for Cannabis
Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP)
Drug Action Network
Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Policy Forum of Illinois
A Drug War Carol
Drug War Facts
Educators for Sensible Drug Policy (EfSDP)
Daniel Forbes articles at MAP
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR)
Fully Informed Jury Association
Harm Reduction Coalition
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
The Lindesmith Center
Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
A Marijuana Smoker's Lounge
M.A.S.H. Action Group
Media Awareness Project (MAP)
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
The November Coalition
Orange County NORML
Religious Leaders for a More Just and Compassionate Drug Policy
Salon.com Drug War Archives
Stop the Drug War (DRCNet)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy
U.S. Marijuana Party
Vaults of Erowid
Drug War Cheerleaders:
Pushing Back - the Drug Czar's "blog"
Miserable Failure at Drug Policy
2. Write a letter to the editor
The government is using your tax dollars to campaign for continuing the failed war on drugs. You can't afford to do the same advertising they can, but you can make a huge difference. A letter to the editor has the same impact as an expensive ad, but at no cost but your time and effort.
There's a fabulous resource called Media Awareness Project, which has just about every important article printed in a newspaper anywhere (usually within a day), along with contact information for writing a letter to the editor. There are even resources to help you write letters. Voluteer contributors got enough letters printed last year to be equivalent to almost $4 million worth of advertising.
3. Contact your elected officials
When issues come up in Congress, I'll give you an alert on Drug WarRant. There are also some excellent places to find out about alerts, that will walk you through an easy web process to send an email or fax to your representatives. If you have time, write a regular letter, or call their office and talk to the staff. It has even more impact. Recently, I called the office of Senator Durbin to say how much I appreciated his efforts regarding the Tandy nomination, and the staff was so happy to hear a positive word. It can really make a difference.
Go to the NORML Action site
Or visit the ACLU Drug Policy Action Site.
4. Sign up for informative newsletters
StopTheDrugWar.org has an excellent weekly newsletter with a review of what's going on in the drug war called "The Drug War Chronicle". Click on the link and sign up for the free email newsletter.
Another site with a newsletter is the Drug Policy Alliance:
Drug Sense has a weekly newsletter:
Check the list of Drug Reform Organizations on the Drug WarRant front page for more places to visit.
5. Know your rights
Go to Flex your Rights and order a copy of the DVD: "Busted"
6. Know how to talk to young people
Go to Safety First - a reality based approach to teens, drugs, and drug education, with some outstanding wiritng by Marsha Rosenbaum.
7. If you live somewhere on this planet...
Sign the international appeal for an Anti-prohibitionist Reform of Drug Laws.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
November 23rd, 2008 By: Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Adverse Effects of Marijuana
By FRED GARDNER
In the past 10 years, California doctors have authorized cannabis use by at least 350,000 patients. What have they learned about its adverse effects?
According to a survey of 19 doctors associated with the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, side-effects are relatively rare, mild, and transient. There have been no deaths, no major adverse events attributed to cannabis -with one exception involving a claim by an establishment psychiatrist that cannabis induced and exacerbated psychosis in an 18-year old whom she had on a regimen of Lexapro and Zyprexa.
Comments by the SCC doctors follow.
Frank Lucido, MD: Reported adverse effects are rare, in part because the patient coming to a medical cannabis consultation has already found cannabis to be of benefit. (I have had perhaps 10 patients in 10 years who had never tried cannabis or who hadn't used it in many years and were uncertain if it would effectively treat their current illness or symptoms.) Two patients have discontinued use in response to decreased productivity. The overwhelming majority report that they are MORE productive when their symptoms are controlled with cannabis.
Robert Sullivan, MD: None common (c. 1%), none "serious." Weight gain, tolerance, anxiety (related to potential theft from an outdoor garden), dry mouth, short-term memory decrease, anxiety, red eyes. All described in response to my inquiry (not spontaneous). None resulted in stopping cannabis use.
Marian Fry, MD: The most significant negative reactions are due to fear of incarceration and the results of abuse by officers unwilling to honor California law.
William Toy, MD: The most important adverse effects are respiratory problems caused by smoking. Most patients who have respiratory problems use vaporizers or edible forms of cannabis. We go out of our way to get patients on vaporizers and we now have only a small percentage of smokers -mostly people who have been smoking marijuana for 30-40 years. Most in this group use very little, maybe one or two doses a day.
Philip A. Denney, MD: Virtually none reported by patients except contacts with the legal system. Patients are able to stop using easily in order to pass drug tests or when traveling. Overdose from edible cannabis -an unpleasant drowsiness lasting six to eight hours- is rare and transient.
David Bearman, MD: Occasional complaints of cough. Many more complaints about Marinol than cannabis -dysphoria, ineffective, costs too much.
Tom O'Connell, MD: The most common is the "paranoid" reaction, in which, characteristically, a user who is "high" develops the uncomfortable feeling that everyone he/she sees KNOWS they are high and is critical of them for it. It almost always occurs in a situation where the person may be forced to deal unexpectedly with the public. It certainly needs further study. In any event, patients deterred from using pot aren't lining up for approvals to do so.
William Courtney, MD: A significant number of my middle-aged patients are no longer enamored of the psychoactive effects that previously were the highlight of their cannabis use. For them, what was euphoric has now become dysphoric. Such patients tolerate the anxiogenic properties in order to enjoy the anti-spasmodic or analgesic effects -much as a patient on chemotherapy reluctantly accepts the nausea in exchange for the anti-tumor effects. While a few patients have discovered that there are strains that provide relief without dysphoria, others are excited by the possibility of daytime CBD analgesia or autoimmune modulation without alteration of their sensorium.
Dr. A.: We've had several reports of hypotensive reaction -a sudden drop in blood pressure, which results in fainting. It's very rare and, as reported by my patients, is a one-time thing. It typically happens after a big meal, when the GI tract is opened up and absorbing a lot of blood.
Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD: Is there a downside to the use of cannabis? The sense of intoxication rarely lasts longer than an hour and tends to be more troubling to the novice than to the experienced user. For some people cannabis can induce dry mouth, red eyes, unsteady gait, mild in-coordination, and short-term memory loss, all of which are transient. These effects are reportedly trivial compared to those brought on by pharmaceutical alternatives.
Cannabis use is steadily finding acceptance in society. Still, for many it remains awkward if not totally impractical in the workplace. People whose jobs require multi-tasking such as pilots, drivers, dispatchers, switchboard operators, and many professionals find the intoxicating effects of cannabis inappropriate in the workplace, and therefore reserve their use for after work.
The survey, conducted by your correspondent for the upcoming issue of O'Shaughnessy's (and previewed exclusively on CounterPunch), does not pretend to be rigorous. It involves the patient population least likely to experience adverse events and a setting in which adverse events might be downplayed (examinations in which the patient is seeking the doctor's approval to use). As Dr. Lucido and others point out, in the first 10 years of legality created by Prop 215, almost all the patients seeking physician approval to use cannabis had been self-medicating previously with positive results. Truly naïve patients have been rare -and those experiencing unwanted side-effects would be unlikely to return to the doctor for a renewal, i.e., their complaints would go unreported.
The charge that cannabis use caused and then increased the severity of a psychotic break in an 18-year-old was made by a Stanford University psychiatrist, Dr. P., who filed a complaint with the state medical board against the doctor who had approved it. "I believe THC caused his depression to worsen, interferes with antidepressant meds, and clearly caused his psychosis," Dr. P advised the board. "He is also psychologically and physically dependent on the substance. He refuses to quit. He even admitted to seeking the medical marijuana justification in order to use regularly 'legally.'"
The assumption that marijuana causes physical dependence is without scientific foundation. Dr. P.'s use of the term "even admitted" reveals a prosecutorial frame of mind. She seems appalled to learn what all cannabis consultants know and what should come as no surprise to any person with common sense: feeling legitimate relieves anxiety! Dr. P.'s treatment of the mutual patient involved anti-marijuana exhortations and the pushing of her preferred corporate drugs. Lexapro is an SSRI antidepressant made by Forest Pharmaceuticals. Like all SSRIs it is slowly but surely being linked to suicide in the medical literature (while the drug companies and their paid researchers in the psychiatric establishment challenge each piece of evidence).
Dr. P.'s allegation that marijuana use precipitated and aggravated the patient's break with reality can't be proved or disproved. Some published studies indicate an "association" between marijuana use and schizophrenia, but not necessarily a causal relationship. (A person seeing demons or hearing voices may use cannabis because he finds that it quiets them.) Schizophrenia occurs in about 1% of adult populations in all countries and cultures, regardless of the prevalence of cannabis use. The use of Marinol (synthetic THC) by teenage cancer patients has not resulted in an increased incidence of schizophrenia.
Ironically, the component of the cannabis plant thought to have sedative and anti-psychotic properties -Cannabidiol (CBD)- is present only in trace amounts in the strains available to California patients. As indicated by Dr. Courtney, the SCC doctors are frustrated that they don't know the cannabinoid contents of the herbs their patients are using. They all wish a high-CBD strain was available. They would have learned a lot in 10 years about how it differs from high-THC cannabis. Prohibition sabotages research.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Americans for Safe Access has received many reports from patients and dispensaries that law enforcement considers edible medical marijuana products to be illegal. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the law. California Health & Safety Code Section 11018 defines "marijuana" as "all parts of the plant Cannabis Sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin." (emphasis added.) In 2003, in order to clear up confusion around the legality of concentrated cannabis, the California Attorney General (AG) issued a legal opinion on the matter. The AG concluded that Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, included concentrated cannabis within the definition of marijuana, and that patients and providers should be protected from criminal sanctions.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Written by Vanessa Nelson
Thursday, August 28 2008
Eddy Lepp photo by Vanessa NelsonSAN FRANCISCO -- In an unanticipated turn of events, the bust of the world’s largest medical marijuana grow has developed into one of the shortest trials in federal court.
Opening arguments in the United States v. Charles “Eddy” Lepp were delivered yesterday morning to a freshly assembled jury. The judge gave her own speech as well, outlining the procedures in the trial, the elements of the charges, and various reflections on the importance of jury service. The government then proceeded to call all of its witnesses and present all of its exhibits. And when it was finally done, it was almost time for lunch.
This approach is a novel one for the government. The prosecution in federal medical marijuana trials is typically vigorous, with witness testimony that spans a full week or more. With this case, however, it’s as though someone has suddenly pushed the turbo button.
The years of pre-trial legal wrangling weren’t exactly fast, but they did have plenty of twists and turns. For instance, Lepp came an inch shy of a key victory when the judge threw out the search warrant that was used against him in August 2004. The bubble burst on that hope, however, when the prosecutor successfully argued that law enforcement agents didn’t need a valid warrant to seize tens of thousands of plants from Lepp’s field. Deciding that issue alone took over a year and the testimony of several witnesses, those watching the case were expecting the same pace for the trial. Instead, the proceedings have whizzed by in a surreal blur.
According to the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hall, the reason for the acceleration is that the defense has stipulated two crucial facts: that the seized plants were marijuana and that they were grown on land owned by Lepp. Such stipulations remove the need for some witnesses, like those who testify about chains of evidence and laboratory test results. However, these omissions alone do not explain the brevity and the bareness of the government’s case. “We’ve boiled it down,” Hall explained to the jury during his opening statement. Indeed they have…and it seems that not much is left.
Hall’s case has focused almost entirely on the events of a single afternoon – August 9th, 2004 – when three local sheriffs took an impromptu joyride through Lepp’s field in the northern California town of Upper Lake. The sheriffs supposedly made the trip in order to observe the large marijuana crop that was said to be growing alongside Highway 20, but it ended up being much more than a quick drive. Things began to go awry when the little squad aroused the suspicions of onlookers, and it ended with the sheriffs claiming they were chased down and assaulted by people from Lepp’s property.
By all appearances, the sheriffs were mistaken for trespassers…and, as Hall described the incident, it was easy to understand why. After all, the sheriffs did enter Lepp’s property without permission, while out of uniform and riding in an unmarked truck. They proceeded to drive slowly down a private dirt road that ran along the perimeter of the field, visually appraising the crops as they went. They soon attracted shouted inquiries from people in the field, but the sheriffs simply ignored the questions put to them about who they were and why they were there. Two men in a sedan then started following them along the dirt road, eventually getting the truck to stop by passing it and then hitting their brakes. The sheriffs responded by leaping out of the truck with guns drawn, shouting, “Lake County Sheriff’s Department!” and ordering the sedan’s occupants down to the ground.
These two men were detained and promptly searched, and the examination turned up $1500 on the one named Dallas Nelson. According to Hall’s account, the wad of cash was causing Nelson’s pants to bulge out, but he told the sheriffs the money was for his monthly living expenses and not from marijuana. Hall didn’t suggest anything to contest this claim, nor did he present any witnesses who did so. Since the government is supposed to be proving a charge of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute, it looked to be something of a deficiency.
The missing parts of the government’s case became more and more conspicuous as the evidence was presented. The witness list consisted only of the three sheriffs who took the ill-fated ride through the field, and they all told similar versions of the events Hall described in his opening statement. These narratives even included repeated accounts of Lepp’s admission that the garden consisted of 18,000 plants for 2400 patients. In one scenario, such a statement might work against Lepp as a confession to distribution. However, it could also work in his favor as a covert, de facto defense to his charges. Either way, the government’s lackadaisical showing leaves the defense with plenty of room to maneuver.
Other than the blocked attempt to get a witness to estimate the monetary worth of the crop, the only other part of the government’s case that hinted at distribution was a snippet of conversation between Lepp and one of the sheriffs. It occurred after, as Hall put it, Lepp drove down from his house “almost like riding in on a white horse” to mediate the confrontation in his field.
Upon arriving at the scene, Lepp was greeted by Sergeant David Garzoli. The two men knew each other from prior association, and this opened the door for seemingly-casual smalltalk. Noticing renovations being made to Lepp’s house, Garzoli commented, “Business must be good, Eddy.”
The response that followed was repeated so frequently in pre-trial hearings that it coined a catch-phrase for the trial long before it ever got underway. “I’m rolling in it, Dave,” was Lepp’s much-quoted reply.
The defendant confirms the statement, but he claims that he made gestures suggestive of rolling a joint as he uttered the phrase. None of the government’s three witnesses mentioned this detail, however. Instead, the sheriffs chose to interpret the comment as Garzoli suggested, to mean that Lepp was “rolling in dough, rolling in money.”
When David Perry took the stand yesterday, he described being particularly dismayed at the idea that Lepp cold be profiting from marijuana sales. Perry, a 20-year employee of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, was along for the ride to Lepp’s field on August 9th purely for the novelty of it. “Frankly, I had never seen a garden that large, and I was curious,” he testified about his reason for making the trip.
Perry recalled the claim about the marijuana being for 2400 patients, but reported becoming more cynical when he heard Lepp’s now-notorious comment to Garzoli. “I got the feeling he was a benevolent caregiver,” Perry said about Lepp. “Then, he seemed enthused about the money he was making.”
Defense Attorney Michael Hinckley photo by Vanessa NelsonHowever suggestive it may be, the “rolling in it” quote is ultimately an ambiguous line. It’s a shaky place for the government to hang its hat with regard to the distribution elements of the charges, and it does nothing to counter Lepp’s trial strategy. According to the opening statement made by defense attorney Michael Hinckley yesterday, Lepp should be acquitted of the charges against him because he was a step removed from the activities that took place on his property.
Lepp can’t be guilty of manufacturing marijuana or possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute, the defense’s theory argues, because he didn’t cultivate and he didn’t possess. The same concept applies to the second charge, which is conspiracy to distribute or to possess with the intent to distribute. If Lepp never intended to possess the marijuana, the defense posits, then he can’t be guilty of conspiring to do so.
Whether this approach turns out to be masterfully simplistic or blunderingly foolish depends to a large degree on the way that Lepp and his attorneys present their evidence. And, as it appears, the defense will be given wide latitude in the department of spin and rhetoric. For example, talk of medical marijuana in front of a federal jury often earns a defense attorney the stern admonishment that state laws are not to be mentioned in federal court. Hinckley’s opening statement, however, went without objection from the government as he wove an emotionally-rich story about his client’s experiences with the medical and sacramental marijuana.
As his starter, the defense attorney suggested that our adversarial system of justice is responsible for some tricky illusions. He compared it to asking a person to put his hand up in front of his face and then answer the question, “Do you see a hand?” While the obvious answer seems to be yes, Hinckley acknowledged, the real answer is that only half of a hand is seen…that is, until the hand is turned over to the other side. And, to bring the analogy all the way home, Hinckley clarified that when the defense presents its evidence, it will be like turning the hand over to the other side.
What the jurors will see on the other side, the defense attorney suggested, is a version of Eddy Lepp that’s different from the one depicted by the government. Hinckley promised to present a fully-disabled Vietnam veteran whose demons were so vicious that they couldn’t be helped by anything except religion. And the faith that helped his client, he revealed, was the Christian-based Caribbean religion of the Rastafarians. “The most well-known tenant of it is the sacramental use of marijuana,” Hinckley announced.
As the defense attorney told it, Lepp’s discoveries about medical marijuana overlapped his enlightenment about the spiritual uses of marijuana. “It was the only thing that brought solace to his father, who was dying of cancer,” Hinckley said. Lepp was also a keen observer of the way marijuana helped his wife Linda during her decade-long struggle with cancer, aiding her in ways that no other medicine could. After describing this to the jury, Hinckley noted Linda’s recent death with a tone of sorrow. From back at the defense table, Lepp drew a noticeably deep, loud breath in reaction to this topic.
Defense Attorney Michael Hinckley with Eddie Lepp photo by Vanessa Nelson
Going forward with his opening statement, Hinckley spoke at length about the church Lepp started. Earlier, the prosecutor had presented a gigantic blow-up of a photo of Lepp’s home, calling the exhibit a depiction of the cultivation site. Hinckley quickly approached the easel where it sat and began describing the poster-sized enlargement as a picture of the church. “They also opened their doors to drug addicts and the homeless,” Hinckley said of the ministry, then attempted again to weave the strands of medical and spiritual marijuana use. “Many of them were medical marijuana users as well,” he said of the church members.
The parishioners could grow their own sacrament, Hinckley continued, but the one thing they desperately needed was land. As the attorney told it, Lepp donated to the church by allowing its members to grow their sacrament on land he owned across the highway from his house. “The evidence will show it wasn’t Eddy’s marijuana, and he never possessed it,” Hinckley told the jury confidently, concluding his opening statement.
This was just a preview of Lepp’s disarmingly minimalist legal strategy, which will be brought to fulfillment later today. With the defendant himself on schedule to testify, the stakes are remarkably high. It will be Lepp’s one and only opportunity to convey himself emotionally to the jurors, and in a trial that has fed on speed and simplicity, such a connection could make all the difference in the world.
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Monday, August 25, 2008
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Sunday, August 24, 2008
http://www.mapinc.org/media/581 Referenced: People v. Kelly http://www.canorml.org/news/kellyruling.html
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topic/Compassionate+Use+Act Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topic/Mendocino+County Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Marijuana - Medicinal) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/opinion.htm (Opinion)
DECISIONS FORCE NEW LOOK AT MEDICAL MARIJUANA We understand why a local judge struck down the provisions of voter-approved Measure B limiting the number of plants a medical marijuana patient can grow. The California Appeals Court ruled in May that the six mature, 12 immature plant limit and the eight ounce dried marijuana possession limit were unconstitutional because the California Legislature had set the limits by legislation not voter initiative. Measure B's limits were based on the California state law. (The California Supreme Court has now decided to take up the question of the legality of these limits which were rejected a second time in another Appeals Court ruling in July.) Now, medical marijuana growing and possession goes back to the confusing and varied interpretations that existed before the state passed its regulations - regulations that were fervently sought by true medical marijuana patients in order to bring some order and protection to the 1996 initiative that was unfortunately very poorly worded. As of this moment, there are technically no limits on the number of medical marijuana plants a person can grow - but anything they grow has to be strictly for their own personal medical needs. That is the important distinction and one that local marijuana growers need to pay attention to. Unfortunately this ruling may encourage more of the commercial backyard growing we've seen from people who will assume that "no limits" means they can get away with anything. We hope that our Sheriff Tom Allman and District Attorney Meredith Lintott will make it clear in their actions that this local court ruling - and the ruling it stems from in People v. Kelly in the State Court of Appeals - still makes it clear that medical marijuana growing must be for personal medical use - and lacking any regulatory direction, not some conglomerate in San Francisco or dispensary in Ukiah. The courts ruled that the Compassionate Use Act does not limit a medical marijuana patient's growing allowance based on a doctor's recommendation. But it is also clear that those needs must be approved by a doctor and clearly defines "caregiver" as a person "designated by the person exempted under this section who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person." We have long argued that the definition of caregiver from the CUA had been twisted out of all proportion and made mockery of the compassion California voters tried to extend to the truly sick and dying. We will see if the California Supreme Court agrees that regulating the CUA by legislation is constitutional. If not, the CUA will likely be scrutinized and perhaps amended by another voter initiative. If that happens, we believe it is time to set constitutional limits on the number of plants a medical marijuana patient can have, and provide a strict definition of caregiver, limiting that to one person, someone who is personally caring for the patient on a regular basis, not someone in Mendocino County growing 100 plants in their name. The Kelly decision - and the local decision based on it - should not be construed as an open door to more pot growing. These decisions should be viewed as restating the limits envisioned on medical marijuana when the voters passed the CUA, limits that have been ignored up and down the state and which have led voters even in this Emerald Triangle, to reject marijuana growing as greedy and dangerous to their communities.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The Los Angeles Police Department, the DEA and the IRS continue to investigate Compassionate Caregivers Inc. The company closed its seven dispensaries after the Los Angeles Police Department seized its bank accounts June 6th. "We will not be taking action against medical marijuana facilities unless we can link those facilities to street sales and violent crime or gang activity here in Los Angeles," said LAPD spokesperson Lt. Paul Vernon. "We found some connection between that location and street crime in our city."
"It's absolutely laughable to think that a corporation with seven locations across the state is somehow linked to gangs or violent crime," countered Compassionate Caregiver's Executive Director Sparky Rose.
Rose says the search warrant used by the LAPD to raid the West Hollywood clubs made no mention of gangs or violence. According to Rose, the warrant mentioned only two patients who entered the West Hollywood facility with forged medical cannabis ID cards - and a patient who claimed to have bought more than six mature plants at time from the club which Rose says did not sell mature plants.
Attorney Bruce Margolin who is representing the company's West Hollywood dispensary that was raided by the LAPD on May 13, says the club never received a cease and desist order. Margolin challenges reports that the club was targeted because it sold eight ounces to a pound of cannabis to patients at a time. He notes that SB 420 sets no limits on how much cannabis a dispensary can sell to customers.
According to Margolin, Compassionate Caregivers worked closely with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the West Hollywood Sheriffs Department which were unhappy when the LAPD strayed out of their jurisdiction to bust the West Hollywood dispensary.
"Each police agency has their own philosophy and idea of what the law is and this is a problem," said Margolin. "We have a very sad situation here where the will of the people seems to be undermined and the law is only as good as the people who enforce it."
Rose says the LAPD exaggerated the amount of cannabis seized from the West Hollywood dispensary by weighing the cannabis together with the acrylic jars it was contained in. He says the 800 pounds of cannabis reportedly seized is off by more than an order of magnitude. "There was less than 50 pounds of dry cannabis on the premesis and then some cuttings in rockwool, some edibles, and some extracts," said Rose. "The killer for us was the tainted sodas which they weighed in the bottles."
"Everybody involved with medical cannabis is confused," said Rose who said he was informed about the seizure of his company's assets when he attempted to make a bank deposit. "It this the [federal] government involved saying 'we want to do this,' or is this the LAPD doing it just because they can."
Rose added that the shut down of the seven dispensaries has forced the lay off of 225 employees who have also lost their health insurance. He says the state must now pay unemployment benefits to those employees. According to Rose, Compassionate Caregivers had a weekly payroll of $170,000. "We were definitely trying to contribute a lot of money to the Oakland economy," said Rose. "We were a for-profit business, but we put the profits into opening new clubs."
Rose confirmed that his profit margin is between 5% and 15% after taxes and the amound of money seized from Compassionate Caregivers is less than 25% of its annual payroll. "While the LAPD might see this as a windfall, the cost will be borne by the California taxpayer while all of our employees draw unemployment and have to flood other social programs as a result of having no COBRA option for healthcare," said Rose. "With one phone call from the LAPD to the West Hollywood Sheriff, all if this could have been avoided...it's sad."