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February 08, 2009

Federal Trials & DEA Raids reflect the same arrogant drug war mentality

When interpreting new developments in California’s twelve year old medical marijuana war, the most important point to remember is that it’s been an ad-hoc guerrilla war since December 1996; also that it’s being waged by a comfortable tax-supported alliance of federal and local police agencies against poorer, more disparate, and more loosely affiliated political activists; some of whom have also been exposed as arguably greedy opportunists.

Beyond that, media coverage has, with rare exceptions, been medically uninformed, historically ignorant, and inclined to give the default to the feds.

Although highly principled reformers like WAMM, the Corralls, and the victims of Cool Madness, have also been prominent, they represent a distinct minority and have been further handicapped by having to rely for sustenance on the gray market created by the initiative; to say nothing of being tarred by the antics of traditional stoners who continue to deny increasing evidence that many have been self-medicating since high school.

Despite those handicaps, it has recently become clear that traditional DEA style marijuana enforcement will have to change; what’s now most important is how much? And how fast? Unfortunately, the agent of that change will be an Obama Administration, itself mired in traditional Democratic foibles and forced to deal with the economic and foreign policy messes left by their predecessors.

On the other hand, McCain’s unlikely strength in November suggests it may have taken all eight Bush years to elect America’s first nominally black President.

Before the raids by DEA holdovers began claiming my attention, I was reading accounts of two recent federal marijuana trials by Vanessa Nelson. With respect to the ordeal of Doctor Fry and Dale Shafer, anyone with a rudimentary sense of fairness would have to realize that the federal advantage in court is both huge and grossly unfair. Federal witnesses, mostly snitches or undercover cops, were not only held to a lower standard of truth, the judge and prosecutor openly colluded about how to protect such testimony while keeping the jury from hearing anything good about cannabis.

What I have since discovered is that Ed Rosenthal’s second trial , also conducted in Judge Charles Breyer’s San Francisco courtroom was a greater travesty than either his first or the Cool Madness exercise in Sacramento. That point became painfully clear to me after I placed it in its most logical context: the travesty Dustin Costa endured in Fresno at the hands of two political operatives: Assistant prosecutor Karen Escobar and Judge Anthony Ishii.

The bottom line is that tactics used by the DEA and the Federal Judiciary against medical marijuana activists in California have been exposed as ad-hoc, random, and capricious to a greater degree than ever before. A simple comparison of the relevant facts in the Rosenthal and Costa cases shows why: both men are of similar age and were growing similar numbers of plants, allegedly for medical purposes (although Rosenthal was shown to have collected much more money). However, there are critical differences: their original arrests were by different agencies in different venues and they enjoyed much different levels of political support. Although both were eventually convicted in federal court, their trials and punishments have been so grotesquely different as to defy rational explanation; the wealthier Rosenthal spent one day in jail and was later supported by an outpouring of donations from reform in an attempt to remove the onus of his felony conviction; the less affluent Costa has been continuously incarcerated since August 2005, was denied bond, and has been virtually ignored by the movement he thought he was part of.

This won’t be the last I’ll have to say about these issues; in fact, I’m just getting started.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 8, 2009 08:29 PM