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October 29, 2006

Political Note...

Early next month, the federal government will begin trying my friend Dustin Costa for the crime of growing medical marijuana.  Costa, who just turned sixty, has literally been buried in the Fresno County Jail since August 10th, 2005; If convicted, he faces up to ten years in a federal prison. His story, in capsule form, illustrates two discrete phenomena. The first, hardly  news, is the malevolence and dishonesty of the federal drug war bureaucracy. The second is something I've avoided mentioning directly until now; it's the cluelessness and ineptitude of the medical marijuana 'reform' movement.

The huge federal advantage in court is that the game is rigged against medical pot defendants from the start. The defense can't let the jury know it's a medical case,  the judge won't mention it in his instructions, and the jury, also unaware of the harsh sentencing guidelines the judge will be expected to follow, will almost always vote to convict.

It's the modern equivalent of a fair trial followed by a speedy execution.

That's what happened to Brian Epis in 2002, when the same federal judge in Sacramento who had sentenced the Unibomber to life sentenced a young professional and father, who is clearly not a criminal in any sense, to ten years for daring to use a state law to challenge federal drug policy.

Federal prosecutions do carry some risk for the government; in 2003, Ed Rosenthal's jury revolted after the fact and shamed a different federal judge into a radical departure from standard sentencing guidelines. The major difference between the two  outcomes was venue; when it comes to marijuana, Sacramento is almost as red at San Diego and Bakersfield, while San Francisco and Oakland are as blue as it gets. That Rosenthal was also a well known (in pot circles) author became known to his jury only after they revolted.

What is almost never mentioned by either reform or the feds is the huge tactical error the Raich case represented . Without getting into why the case was ever brought in the first place, its outcome has been a disaster simply because it has encouraged the DEA to prosecute pot cases far more aggressively within California. The Costa case is only the first of many that will follow in relatively short order, also in Fresno, if he's successfully railroaded.

What is perplexing is that the 'movement,' which is tripping over itself to support Rosenthal in his upcoming retrial (more on that another day) seems to have forgotten Dustin Costa completely.

Can't they see that publicity for one is publicity for the other and the one thing the feds have to fear is the possibility that a majority of Californians will find out that the institutionalized injustice of federal marijuana prosecutions rivals that they seek to impose on people they hope to try as 'terrorists.'

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 29, 2006 07:25 PM