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March 18, 2007

Evolving Court Battles

That the pusillanimous non-decision in the ill-conceived Raich case went against reform in June, 2005 came as no surprise; however no one had anticipated the extent it would encourage federal and local law enforcement to cooperate in raids on the ‘dispensaries’ which were then popping up like mushrooms, especially in the Southland and the Central Valley, for reasons that were also unclear. The arrests generated by those raids have since produced a growing list of cases heading for federal trial in Fresno. However, that effort may have just been upstaged by the reprise of an earlier San Francisco case with the power to change the political climate.

For those still paying attention, there could be no better example of the religious thinking driving the drug war than US Attorney George Bevan’s dogged efforts to punish Ed Rosenthal as befits his heresy in support of 'medical' marijuana.  Although he’d obtained a felony conviction in 2003, the fact that Rosenthal wasn’t punished with a long jail sentence had obviously rankled Bevan. It had been because an unusual and well publicized jury revolt immediately after the trial had given Judge, Charles Breyer, who just happens to be the younger brother of a Supreme Court justice, an opening for a shrewd maneuver. He sentenced Rosenthal to the one day he'd served in custody following his arrest.

When Rosenthal defiantly appealed that conviction, the government responded by opting to retry him on the marijuana charges, plus others for money laundering and income tax evasion. They’d clearly not known that Breyer would once again come to Ed’s rescue and make his distaste for both the logic and tactics of the 'Justice' Department in drug cases even more obvious, by ruling decisively in his favor.

Given that every other federal judge sentencing a medical marijuana activist since 1997 had been supportive of federal policy, Breyer's attitude is exemplary. It also stands in stark contrast to the principle  of 'equal justice for all.

This is particularly important in a current setting in which Judge Anthony Ishii, who will soon be trying several cases in the relative anonymity of Fresno,  has just shown by his conduct of the Costa case that he shares none of Breyer's scruples.

This is a challenge to the ASA legal team, which has just shown so great imagination in San Francisco, to become active in the Central Valley as well.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 18, 2007 06:16 PM