Court Cases

Read about the prosecution of medical marijuana patients on the state and federal level in these WEED WARS court case profiles.  United States v. Marijuana court cases include federal jury trials that resulted in sentences of up to 25 years for medical marijuana dispensary owners, protracted legal battles after child protective services steals children from their parents for farming a plant, plus numerous of cases destruction and forfeiture of property in a massive SWAT-style raid, followed by a prolonged period of waiting to see which entity (state or federal) files charges against the defendant.

Due to the possibility of decades-long sentences in the federal system, the vast majority of cases are never heard by a jury; defendants are sentenced by federal judges to mandatory minimums after pleading guilty to a reduced set of charges offered by the prosecution in a plea deal.

Alphabetical Index to Court Cases
Active court cases:
State of California v. Daisy Bram (CA-2011 arrest)
United States v. Roger Christie (HI-2010 arrest)
United States v. Paul Schmidt (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Russell Blake (WA-2011 arrest)
United States v. Charles Wright and Jon Vivian (WA-2011 arrest)
United States v. "Dr. Reefer" et al. (NV-2011 arrest)

Patient victories in court:
State of California v. Catrina Falbo (CA-2010 arrest)
State of California v. Richard and Donna Tognoli
State of California v. Richard and Kim Levin (CA
State of California v. Peter Keyes (CA-2010 citation)
State of California v. Eugene Davidovich (CA-2008 arrest)
State of California v. Myron Mower (CA-1997 arrest)
United States v. Ed Rosenthal
State of California v. Sister Somayah Kambui

Jury trials:
United States v. Aaron Sandusky (CA)
United States v. Jason Washington (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Chris Williams (MT-arrest)
State of California v. Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron (CA)

Unresolved court cases:
State of Mississippi v. David Allen, M.D. (MS-2009 arrest)
United States v. Winslow and Abraham Norton (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Louis Fowler (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Chris Giauque (CA-2001 arrest)
State of California v. Marvin Chavez (CA-1999 arrest)

Status unclear:
United States v. Steele Smith (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Mark Whitney (CA-2002 arrest)
State of California v. Addison DeMoura (CA-2007 arrest)
State of California v. Rob Taylor (CA-2005 arrest)
State of California v. Martin and LaVonne Victor (CA)
State of California v. Jason Browne (CA-2002 arrest)

Raided / Seizure / Forfeiture / No Criminal Charges:
State of California v. Jason Browne (CA-2002 arrest)

Plea Deals:
United States v. Jason Burns, Jesse Leland, and Joshua Schultz (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Jonathan Janetski, Michael Kassner, and Tyler Roe
United States v. Chris Lindsey (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Tom Daubert (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Evan Corum and Ryan Blindheim

United States v. Troy Conte (CA-2009 arrest)
United States v. Jimmy Halloran (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Bill Connelly (CA-2007 arrest)

Home Detention / Probation / Time Served:
United States v. Anna and Gary Barrett
United States v. Scott Imler, Jeff Yablan, and Jeff Farrington
United States v. David Arnett and David Kephart
United States v. Ed Bierling and Dan Nelson
United States v. Michael Teague (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Mike Foley (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. John Seidenberg (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Robert Rasmussen (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Ronald Naulls (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Mike Foley (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Ken Hayes and Rick Watts (CA-2001 arrest)
State of California v. Shannon and Michael O'Leary (CA-2006 arrest)

Pending POWs:
United States v. Jason Washington
United States v. Paul Schmidt (MT-2011 arrest)
Died in custody / Died pending trial or appeal
United States v. Richard Flor (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Donato Canceleno (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Steve McWilliams (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Chris Giauque

Incarcerated prisoners of war:
State of New Hampshire v. Rich Paul (NH-2012 arrest)
United States v. Jerry Laberdee and Dennis Whited (WA-2011 arrest)
United States v. Chris Williams (MT-2011 raid)
United States v. Richard, Sherry, and Justin Flor (MT-2011 arrest)
United States v. Aaron Sandusky
United States v. Roger Christie (HI-2010 arrest)
United States v. Chris Bartkowicz (CA-2010 arrest)
United States v. Joshua Hester (CA-2010 arrest)
United States v. Eric Stacy, Charles Kisor (CA-2010 arrest)
United States v. Virgil Grant (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Chiaverini, Payne, Westfall, Squier, and Herschel (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Montes (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. David Chavez et al. (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. Dustin Costa (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. James Holland (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Marc Emery (Canada-2005 arrest)
United States v. Eddy Lepp (CA-2004 arrest)
United States v. Timothy Dellas (CA-2003 arrest)
United States v. Scott Feil
United States v. Bryan Epis (CA-1997 arrest)

Released prisoners of war:
United States v. James Stacy and Joseph Nunes (CA-2009 arrest)
United States v. Gary Hulsey (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. John Moreaux (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Chiaverini, Payne, Westfall, Squier, and Herschel (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. Phung Van Nguyen (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Richard Marino (CA-2004 arrest)
United States v. Lynn and Judy Osburn (CA-2001 arrest)
United States v. Roy Lee Sharpnack (CA-2000 arrest)
United States v. Donald Lee Hunt, Jr. and Donald Lee Hunt, Sr. (CA)
United States v. Robert and Shawna Whiteaker (CA)
United States v. Bill Riddick and Peggy Riddick (CA-1997 arrest)
United States v. Todd McCormick, Peter McWilliams, and Renee Boje (CA-1997 arrest)
United States v. B. E. Smith (CA-1997 arrest)
State of California v. Bryn Anderson and Paul Shaw
State of California v. Sister Somayah Kambui
United States v. Charles Lynch (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Mickey Martin (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Michael Lombardo (CA-2007 arrest)
United States v. Kenneth Affolter (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. John Sullivan (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. David Harde and Toby Landis (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. Alice Weigand and Jeffre Sanderson (CA-2006 arrest)
United States v. Larry Kristich and James Carberry (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Thunder Rector (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Sparky Rose (CA-2005 arrest)
United States v. Vernon Rylee (CA-2003 arrest)
United States v. David Davidson and Cynthia Blake (CA-2003 arrest)
United States v. Kevin Gage, Thomas Kikuchi, and Stephanie Landa (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Keith Alden (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Robert G. Schmidt (CA-2002 arrest)
United States v. Bernie Ellis (TN-2002 arrest)
United States v. Lynn and Judy Osburn (CA-2001 arrest)
United States v. Ken Hayes and Rick Watts (CA-2001 arrest)
United States v. Robert and Shawna Whiteaker (CA)
United States v. Dennis Hunter (CA-1998 arrest)
United States v. Joe Fortt (CA)
State of California v. Matthew Zugsberger (CA-2008 arrest)
State of California v. John Bearden (CA-2007 arrest)
State of California v. John Berchielli (CA-2005 arrest)
State of California v. Steve Kubby (CA-1999 arrest)
State of Oklahoma v. Will Foster (OK-1995 arrest)

United States v. Roger Christie (2010-present, Hawai'i)

posted Jun 11, 2013, 4:16 AM by The Editor   [ updated Jun 11, 2013, 5:17 AM ]

As of June 2013, Roger Christie has been held without bail in federal custody for over three years.  He is currently incarcerated at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center awaiting trial:

Roger Christie #99279-022
FDC Honolulu
P.O. Box 30080
Honolulu, HI  96820

Roger Christie is a commercial pilot, former US Army conscientious objector who refused his orders to serve in Vietnam, and longtime drug policy reform advocate.  As a resident of Big Island, Hawaii, he co-founded the Hawai'i Hemp Council and the Hawaiian Hemp Company. By 1991, he had one of the first retail hemp stores in the world. In June, 2000, he was ordained as a minister through the Universal Life Church and founded the THC Ministry as a cannabis sacrament minister.  In 2004 and 2008, Christie ran for mayor of Hawai'i County.

Christie ran the THC Ministry in Hilo, Hawaii for ten years.  For a $50 donation, a person could become a “Practitioner” and receive a plaque, an “affidavit of religious use”, two ID cards, and seven “Sacramental Plant Tags”. For $250, the donor would get a “Sanctuary Kit” which also included the “THC Minsitry Cannabis and Religion Guide."

On March 20, 2010, Federal agents raided the downtown Hilo sanctuary of Christie's Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, assisted by local police.  Christie said authorities spent about seven hours searching his home and ministry, starting around 6 a.m. The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspector and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service were involved in the search. 

A three-count sealed indictment in June 2010 charged Christie with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 100 marijuana plants, manufacturing marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute 240 marijuana plants.  According to court documents, authorities also confiscated approximately 845 grams of processed marijuana in the Wainaku apartment and more than $34,000 cash from the apartment and a bank safe deposit box. The money and the apartment face possible federal forfeiture.  Christie allegedly provided a daily average of one half pound of cannabis to 60 to 70 spiritual customers each day, or about 180 pounds (82 kg) per year.

Christie was arrested on Thursday July 8, 2010, along with 13 others from the Big Island.  The arrests culminated a two-year investigation by federal and county law enforcement during which they seized 2,296 marijuana plants, nine weapons, 33 pounds of processed marijuana, more than $21,000 cash and four properties.  He was taken to Oahu, where he was incarcerated at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center. All other detainees were speedily released on bail or signature bond before trial. But Hawaii Federal District Court Judge Alan Kay ruled that Christie must remain in federal custody until his trial, because Christie represents a “danger to the community.” Judge Kay's ruling was upheld by 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.  Christie is being represented by a public defender.

Continuing the family tradition of civic leadership, Roger's wife Share Christie ran for Mayor of Hawai'i County in 2012.  Hawaiian senators Russell Ruderman and Will Espero have called for Roger Christie's release from prison pending trial; both senators visited Roger Christie at the Honolulu FDC on April 3, 2013.  Sen. Ruderman has stated, “I have known Roger for over 25 years. He is one of the most peaceful persons I know. To anyone who knows him, the claim that he is a danger to the community is absurd.”

Christie’s trial was set for January 23, 2013; however, on Jan. 17, 2013, a federal grand jury in Honolulu returned an updated indictment with additional counts of marijuana sales in 2008 and failure to file a tax return in 2008 and 2009.  Christie’s trial on federal drug trafficking charges has been set for July 23, 2013; he faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.  Six co-defendants have already made plea deals with the prosecution to cooperate with authorities.

Last updated June 11, 2013 by Lex Libreman for WEED WARS: United States v. Marijuana.

Sources:

Blair, Chad. "No Christmas in Hilo for Roger Christie." Civilbeat.com. Honolulu Civil Beat, 19 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/12/19/14142-no-christmas-in-hilo-for-roger-christie/>.

Christie, Roger. "History, Beliefs and Practices of the THC Ministry." THC Ministry: The Hawai'i Cannabis Ministry. THC-Ministry.org, n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.thc-ministry.org/?page_id=362>.

Christie, Share. "Please Vote *Christie For Mayor* on August 11th!" The Last Marijuana Trial. The Last Marijuana Trial, 13 July 2012. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://the-last-marijuana-trial.com/please-vote-christie-for-mayor-on-august-11th/>.

Lincoln, Mileka. "Hawaii Senators Seek Release of Roger Christie - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL." HawaiiNewsNow.com. Hawaii News Now, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/21769496/hawaii-senators-seek-release-of-roger-christie>.

"Roger Christie." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2013. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Christie>.

State of New Hampshire v. Rich Paul (2010 arrest, Cheshire County, NH)

posted Jun 11, 2013, 1:06 AM by The Editor   [ updated Jun 11, 2013, 2:39 AM ]

New Hampshire liberty activist Rich Paul freely admits that in May 2012, he delivered multiple ounces of marijuana to a confidential informant, leading to his arrest by the Keene, NH, police department.  Instead of being booked for a crime, Mr. Paul was interrogated by an FBI special agent who threatened him with 81 years in prison for the sale of controlled substances, while at the same time offering the suspect a "one time only" deal to drop the charges in exchange for entrapping other members of the Keene Activist Center by wearing a wire during felony drug transactions. 

Viewing the FBI special agent's offer as entrapment of peaceful liberty-minded citizens, Mr. Paul refused the deal and invoked his right to legal counsel.  He was booked and released from jail on his own recognizance (O.R.), to be later indicted on four charges of selling marijuana and one of selling a substance alleged to be LSD (which Mr. Paul claims was a legal hallucinogenic).

Immediately prior to his April 2013 trial, Rich Paul refused a "no jail time" plea deal, insisting publicly that he was not guilty because drug prohibition laws are inherently unconstitutional.  United States juries have the power to nullify, or vote "not guilty" on charges they believe to be unjust or immoral.  Jury nullification is the power of the people to change "bad laws" by refusing to convict.  In fact, New Hampshire has a 2012 law permitting defense attorneys to inform juries of their right to "judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy." 

Relying on this law, and his belief in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Rich Paul took his case to trial.  “Somebody had to stand up and say that this is wrong, and I thought I might well be that guy,” Rich told Vice magazine. “I took the risk and now we'll find out whether I bet my life well.”

On the advice of his public defender, Mr. Paul did not take the stand at trial to testify on his own behalf.  In her instructions to the jury, defense attorney Kim Kassick quoted Socrates, "To find yourself, think for yourself," and explained that, "If you feel that it is unjust to apply the law to him, you can acquit him."   In his instructions to the jury, Judge John C. Kissinger emphasized that the jury had to follow the law as he explained it.  The judge did not permit any mention of jury nullification in the official jury instructions.

After a three-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all charges, with a maximum penalty of 100 years in prison.  In June 2013, Rich Paul was sentenced to 12 months in jail, plus a suspended prison sentence, plus probation of three years, plus a $650 fine. 

Rich Paul is appealing his conviction on the grounds that the jury was denied knowledge of their power to decide the law shouldn’t be applied in particular cases. He was denied bail pending appeal and is currently serving his sentence in the Cheshire County Department of Corrections.

Last updated June 11, 2013 by Lex Libreman for WEED WARS: United States v. Marijuana.

Sources:

Rich Paul Full Trial Video by FreeKeene

Cheadle, Harry. "Eighty-One Years for Weed?" VICE.com. Vice Media Inc., 16 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.vice.com/read/eighty-one-years-for-weed>.

Cheadle, Harry. "Rich Paul Is Appealing His 81-Year Prison Sentence for Selling Pot." VICE.com. Vice Media Inc., 29 May 2013. Web. <http://www.vice.com/read/rich-paul-is-appealing-his-81-year-prison-sentence-for-selling-pot>.

French, Wendy. "Rich Paul, from Trial to Appeal and Beyond." FreeKeene.com. Free Keene: Peaceful Evolution, 3 May 2013. Web. <http://freekeene.com/2013/05/03/rich-paul-from-trial-to-appeal-and-beyond/>.

Lynch, Tim. "Jury Nullification Law Signed by New Hampshire Governor." PoliceMisconduct.net. CATO Institute, 27 June 2012. Web. <http://www.policemisconduct.net/jury-nullification-law-signed-new-hampshire-governor/>.

Paul, Rich. "Arrested Activist Blackmailed by FBI, Fights Back!" Web log post. Facebook.com/rich.paul.freeman.  Facebook, 10 Apr. 2013. Web.  <https://www.facebook.com/notes/rich-paul-freeman/activist-entrapped-blackmailed-by-fbi-fights-back-part-1/372899792823749>.

Schlessinger, James B., Jr. "The Growth Operation for Freedom." Cannabis Culture. Cannabis Culture Marijuana Magazine, 9 Apr. 2010. Web. <http://www.cannabisculture.com/content/2010/04/09/Growth-Operation-Freedom>.

Taylor, Adam. "Pot Activist Risking Life In Jail Says He's A Victim Of FBI Persecution." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc., 6 June 2013. Web.  <http://www.businessinsider.com/rich-paul-says-fbi-targeted-libertarians-2013-6>.



State of California v. Sister Somayah Kambui

posted Feb 22, 2013, 2:48 PM by The Editor   [ updated Jun 6, 2013, 2:22 AM ]

Medical marijuana pioneer Sister Somayah Kambui publicized the use of hempseed oil and cannabis to treat sickle-cell anemia.  Sickle-cell anemia is a debilitating disease in which round red blood cells get deformed into a "sickle" shape, blocking blood vessels, causing intense pain, and damaging organs due to lack of oxygen.  Sickle-cell disease rarely affects anyone without African ancestry; as such it primarly strikes the African American community and is largely unknown by the American public at large.

There is no cure for sickle-cell anemia; morphine is the standard treatment for the debilitating pain of the disease.  The use of morphine has produced thousands of medical junkies.  Marijuana, however, works as a vasodilator, opening up the blood vessels, allowing the hook-shaped cells to move freely.  Marijuana also provides analgesic pain relief in addition to physically relieving the blockage in the blood vessels. If marijuana is substituted for opiate-based medicines, patients can obtain more effective relief and avoid narcotics addiction.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Black Panther Party, Sister Somayah Kambui received treatment for sickle-cell disease at the local hospital, where she would drink a small cup of morphine, then be told to come back in two days for another dose.  "I couldn't do anything on the morph," Sister told High Times reporter Peter Gorman. "And neither can a million other people. That's why you see so many middle aged and older black folk sitting on stoops looking like junkies.

"They are junkies. They're US government junkies."

According to Peter Gorman, who received an education in the disease from Sister Somayah, "About one out of 12 African-Americans carries the recessive gene that causes it; the gene apparently helped carriers survive malaria." 

Kacj Herer & Sister Somayah - 2002 Los Angeles Global Marijuana March

It has passed largely under the radar of medical marijuana activists, but as a California resident with the benefits of Proposition 215, Sister Somayah was able to establish the patients' group Crescent Alliance Self-Help for Sickle Cell to provide marijuana to other sufferers of the ailment.

Sister Somayah was raided five times for marijuana cultivation following the passage of Proposition 215. Her backyard garden was uprooted and seized twice in 2001.  After her acquittal by a jury on all felony charges in early 2002, her garden was again raided by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  After she lost her garden and spent painful days in jail without her medicine, the D.A. declined to press charges. Another raid of Sister Somayah's garden prior to the harvest in September of 2002 left her without cannabis or hemp oil, resulting in a flareup of sickle-cell symptoms that put her in the hospital on morphine for two weeks.

In October 2003, Sister Somayah's garden was raided by the DEA and a dozen plants were uprooted, with no charges immediately filed.  California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer denounced the raid as a "mean-spirited, gratuitous attack on a seriously ill woman who has been judged guiltless by her peers under California law.  Like other victims of DEA's medical marijuana raids, Somayah was targeted because she was a vocal, legal patient activist who was a thorn in the side of the law enforcement establishment."

Sister Somayah Kambui produced the first Los Angeles Global Marijuana March with fellow activists in 1999, acting as executive producer of all subsequent marches until her death in 2008.

Rest in peace, Sister Somayah Kambui.

Last updated February 22, 2013 by Lex Libreman for WEED WARS: United States v. Marijuana.

Sister Somayah's Original Tune to the District Attorney

Sources:

California NORML. DEA Raids MMJ Garden of L.A. Patient Sister Somayah. CANORML.org. California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 18 Oct. 2003. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://www.canorml.org/news/Somayahdeabust.html>.

California NORML. LA Jury Acquits Sister Somayah of Medical Marijuana Charge. CANORML.org. California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 18 Mar. 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://www.canorml.org/news/somayahacquitted.html>.

Gorman, Peter. "Med-Pot Activist Sister Somayah Kambui In Hot Water Again" Hightimes.com. High Times, 12 June 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hightimes.com/news/ht_admin/316>.

Gorman, Peter. "SISTER SOMAYAH KAMBUI: Burning the Bush for Sickle Cell." Hightimes.com. High Times, 17 Dec. 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hightimes.com/news/ht_admin/757>.

Hardin, J. Nayer. "Our Sister Somayah Kambui Is Gone?" Web log post. Hemp For Victory Now!, 29 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://h4v.blogspot.com/2008/11/our-sister-somayah-kambui-is-gone.html>.


State of California v. Martin and LaVonne Victor (Temecula, CA)

posted Feb 22, 2013, 2:33 PM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 25, 2013, 1:02 AM ]

July 18th, 2002. In a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court granted medical marijuana patients powerful legal protection against state prosecution for possession and cultivation of marijuana. The court ruled that Prop. 215 is more than just a criminal defense but also provides qualified immunity from prosecution, and that defendants must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," not merely by "preponderance of evidence," a weaker standard that had previously been used by the courts.

A critical issue left unresolved by Mower is how much marijuana patients may cultivate or possess. In one of the first post-Mower trials in the state, patients Martin and LaVonne Victor of Temecula were denied a pre-trial dismissal by Judge James Warren on account of the fact that the amount of marijuana they had harvested (between 8 and 21 pounds) created a reasonable doubt as to whether they intended to sell it. The Victors say they had never grown marijuana before, and were told by police they could grow 15 plants. Having done so, they say the plants yielded more than expected. A defense fund has been established to cover the costs of their jury trial: Victors’ Legal Defense Fund, c/o MAPP, PO Box 739, Palm Springs CA 92263.

Information courtesy of CANORML.org.

State of California v. Jason Browne (2002, Sonoma County, CA)

posted Feb 22, 2013, 2:33 PM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 25, 2013, 12:50 AM ]

July 18th, 2002. In a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court granted medical marijuana patients powerful legal protection against state prosecution for possession and cultivation of marijuana. The court ruled that Prop. 215 is more than just a criminal defense but also provides qualified immunity from prosecution.

Patient cultivator Jason Browne has filed a complaint against Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies Steven Gossett and Andrea Salas for raiding and destroying his medical garden on July 18th, the same day as the Mower decision. Browne, who had been involved in efforts to establish legal medical gardens in Humboldt County, charges that the deputies falsified his record to obtain the search warrant, wrongly claiming that he had been arrested and charged for prior marijuana violations.

Information courtesy of CANORML.org.

State of California v. Marvin Chavez (1999-20??, Orange County, CA)

posted Feb 22, 2013, 2:23 PM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 22, 2013, 2:32 PM ]

July 18th, 2002. In a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court granted medical marijuana patients powerful legal protection against state prosecution for possession and cultivation of marijuana. The court ruled that Prop. 215 is more than just a criminal defense but also provides qualified immunity from prosecution, and that defendants must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," not merely by "preponderance of evidence," a weaker standard that had previously been used by the courts.

The Mower decision was of no help to Prop. 215 patient Marvin Chavez, who was ordered back to state prison after a court turned down his sentencing appeal. Chavez, the founder of the Orange County Cannabis Cooperative, had been sentenced to six years in 1999 for selling small amounts of marijuana to two narcotics agents posing as patients, but was released on bail pending appeal in 2000. He was sentenced by Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Borris [...] remains at large despite having wrecked his car while driving with twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system. Chavez has another 20 to 24 months left to serve.

Information courtesy of CANORML.org.

State of California v. Richard and Kim Levin (1999-20??, Shasta County, CA)

posted Feb 22, 2013, 2:20 PM by The Editor   [ updated Mar 2, 2013, 8:34 PM ]

July 18th, 2002. In a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court granted medical marijuana patients powerful legal protection against state prosecution for possession and cultivation of marijuana. The court ruled that Prop. 215 is more than just a criminal defense but also provides qualified
immunity from prosecution, and that defendants must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," not merely by "preponderance of evidence," a weaker standard that had previously been used by the courts.

Prop. 215 patients are still waiting to win a civil court suit against law enforcement. In Shasta County, patient Richard Levin and his wife Kim lost a civil suit against the sheriff’s department. Richard Levin, who is 100% disabled by a back injury, was acquitted in a Prop. 215 cultivation case in 1999. He went on to sue for false arrest and imprisonment as well as mistreatment of his medical condition while he was in jail. However, the jury exonerated the county. The Levins’ attorney, William Simpich, ventured that the verdict might have been different had the judge allowed him to submit a copy of the Compassionate Use Act as evidence.

Information courtesy of CANORML.org.

State of California v. Richard and Donna Tognoli (2010-present, Butte County)

posted Feb 21, 2013, 3:30 PM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 22, 2013, 2:40 PM ]

In June 2010, law enforcement officers raided eight medical marijuana collectives in Butte County, CA, seizing property and taking forfeiture action against bank accounts of the defendants, but initially only filing criminal charges in one case.  Members of the seven other medical marijuana co-0peratives were left to wonder when they would be indicted and by which government entity, state or federal. 

When Rick and Donna Tognoli's small medical marijuana collective named Scripts Only Service (SOS) was raided, the couple's personal bank account and that of Tognoli Trucking and Grading were seized in addition to all the property of the medical marijuana collective.  Rick Tognoli's trucking business shrank as he struggled to pay utilities and maintain his vehicle fleet; after a years he was back to daily life as a single truck owner-operator, no longer the owner of a modest small business with several employees on the payroll.  The Tognolis lived in limbo for more two years before criminal charges were filed, in September 2012.  According to Rick Tognoli, “The charges were filed about two weeks after I called Butte County Supervisor Larry Wahl a liar in an open [Board of Supervisors] meeting attended by Butte County DA Mike Ramsey.”

The storefront presence of SOS closed following the raid due to the seizure of the collective's money, property, and records, but the Tognolis have continued to provide cannabis to critically ill patients unable to cultivate for themselves.  The couple maintain a 2009 ruling by the California Third District Court of Appeals in the case of County of Butte v. Superior Court gives them and all other Californians the right to cultivate pot collectively. The appellate court decision upheld Butte County Superior Court Judge Barbara Roberts' ruling that rejected Butte County’s policy of requiring collective patients to physically participate in the growing their own cannabis (the Butte County policy disallowed financial contributions).

The Human Solution has reported an interim victory after February 21, 2013 court support for an 8:30 AM procedural hearing--the criminal case was dismissed by the judge in the interest of justice!  (It is unclear if charges may be re-filed).

Sources:

Cantu, Vic. "Pot-bust Flashback." NewsReview.com. Chico News & Review, 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://www.newsreview.com/chico/pot-bust-flashback/content?oid=8291876>.

Graham, Meredith J. "Where Are They Now?" NewsReview.com. Chico News & Review, 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://www.newsreview.com/chico/where-are-they-now/content?oid=3812569>.

State of California v. Myron Mower (1997-2002, Tuolumne County, CA)

posted Feb 21, 2013, 11:22 AM by The Editor   [ updated Mar 2, 2013, 8:33 PM ]

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled on July 18, 2002 in the case of Myron Mower that medical marijuana patients should be protected from unnecessary prosecution, declaring, "Possession and cultivation of marijuana is no more criminal - so long as its conditions are satisfied - than the possession and acquisition of any prescription drug with a doctor’s prescription."  Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote that California's Proposition 215 law "reasonably must be interpreted to grant a defendant a limited immunity from prosecution."

On December 16, 1997, defendant Myron Carlyle Mower was charged with possession and cultivation of marijuana.  The charges arose from a July 11, 1997 search of his residence (while Mower was hospitalized due to complications from diabetes) during which the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department discovered a 31-plant marijuana garden.  Myron Mower pleaded not guilty at arraignment and testified at his trial.  He was convicted by the jury; the verdict was first affirmed by an appeals court before the State Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court for a new trial.

Myron Mower's charges were dropped by the Tuolumne County D.A. The Supreme Court has established a two-step process for patients who are arrested. First, a pretrial hearing is held, where the case can be dismissed if the defendant shows a preponderance of evidence regarding legal patient status.  Second, if a defendant is brought to trial, he or she need only raise a reasonable doubt as to innocence.  The new standard of evidence is that defendants must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" not merely by "preponderance of evidence," a weaker standard that had previously been used by the courts.

Sources (incomplete):

Gieringer, Dale. "State Supreme Court Mower Ruling Protects Prop. 215 Patients." CA NORML News. California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 18 July 2002. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://www.canorml.org/news/mowerdecision.html>.

United States v. Jason Washington (2011-present, Flathead County, MT)

posted Feb 21, 2013, 5:07 AM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 22, 2013, 2:40 PM ]

Former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jason Washington was arrested after simultaneous November 2011 raids on his Missoula, MT Big Sky Health medical cannabis dispensary and a Wye, MT marijuana cultivation site.  Washington, a patient in Montana Medical Marijuana Program, was charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime.  Six other people arrested in connection to Big Sky Health all faced the same charges, which carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison up to a maximum of 40 years, as well as $5 million in potential fines.

Jason Washington's arrest followed a March 2011 statewide crackdown by federal authorities on Montana medical marijuana providers.  Criminal search warrants were executed on 26 locations in 13 Montana cities on March 14, 2011, following an 18-month investigation by approximately thirty law enforcement agencies.  Faced with the prospect of four decades in prison, five of Washington's co-defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises; the sixth indictment was dismissed.  DEA agents intercepted Washington's text message and calls to his cell phone in order to track marijuana transactions.

Freedom fighter Jason Washington took his case to a jury trial, despite the fact that federal courts have consistently maintained that no state medical marijuana law is applicable in the federal system.  Former business associates who received immunity testified against him during the four-day trial; Washington did not take the stand.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Elliott led the prosecution in the trial before U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen.
 
Jason Washington was convicted on two marijuana counts but acquitted of a firearms charge by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Missoula.  The verdict was announced on January 17, 2013 after four hours of deliberation.  Washington was presented by defense attorney Kwame Manley of Patton Boggs (Washington, D.C).  Washington remains on supervised release pending sentencing.

Co-defendant Darin Mower, a dispensary operator in Kalispell, admitted to selling marijuana to Washington in a caregiver-to-caregiver transaction; he was sentenced to five years of probation after accepting a plea deal.  Co-defendant Jesse Shewalter plead guilty to distribution of marijuana to Big Sky Health after prosecutors alleged he traveled to California to purchase marijuana.  Christopher Cronshaw, age 25, described by the DEA as the "head grower" at the Wye marijuana cultivation site, and cultivation employee Greg Zuckert, age 46, each plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in May 2012; the men were sentenced to 25 days in jail and 3 days in jail, respectively, followed by 3 months home arrest and 4 years of supervised release.  Steven Sann, a 58-year-old resident of Lolo, MT, pled guilty to conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises for having a one-time ownership stake in the Wye grow operation.  His January 2013 sentencing was delayed due to illness.  The case against Lisa Fleming was dismissed after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen learned the grand jury heard statements made by the defendant following her immunity deal with prosecutors.

Law enforcement agencies involved in the prosecutions include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.

Sources:

"Christopher Cronshaw and Gregory Zuckert Sentenced in U.S. District Court ." DEA.gov. United States Department of Justice, 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://www.justice.gov/usao/mt/pressreleases/20120907145138.html>.

"Steven Sann Pleads Guilty in U.S. District Court ." DEA.gov. United States Department of Justice, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://www.justice.gov/usao/mt/pressreleases/20121017143603.html>.

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