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February 13, 2009

More Questions about Truth, Marijuana, and Justice: 1


One of several ways California voters changed reality by approving Proposition 215 in 1996 was by unintentionally creating a judicial double standard for “truth.” The US, in concert with most "developed" nations, relies on its courts to decide truth; yet both US and California “supreme” courts have ignored that double standard on the several occasions they might have addressed it, thus placing defendants charged with “marijuana” crimes in onerous double jeopardy.

This entry and the next will be a review of three recent prosecutions of defendants who could have reasonably claimed protection under state law, but were punished in federal court under the double standard neither "supreme" court has seen fit to acknowledge. In addition, the three prosecutions were themselves conducted under such loose standards as to constitute serious violations of due process.

Shortly after 215 passed, there was abundant evidence that the federal government and most local police agencies would resist its implementation. Just as the last entry faulted backers of medical marijuana for persisting in their attempts to convince an obviously dishonest federal agency to change its mind; so it appears that those responsible for Reform's legal strategy failed to learn from the harsh treatment meted out to Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick at the hands of the Federal Judiciary. The adverse outcome in Raich was not simply because their arguments were unpersuasive; rather because they mistakenly believed that the US Supreme Court to be an objective, apolitical entity and that the Department of "Justice" lives up to its name.

Three recent federal trials suggest that not only did backers of federal policy consider the Raich “decision" of June, 2005 to be an invitation to prosecute troublesome activists in Federal Court; those conducting the trials somehow came to believe they had carte blanche to disregard well established rules of due process.

What can now also be seem in retrospect is that not only were all three prosecutions I will describe triggered by Raich, three early DEA raids played crucial roles in two of them and add considerably to a portrait of malevolent federal malfeasance in protection of US drug policy. At the time they took place, all three raids were probably exploratory; intended only to test the waters of public opinion and gain information about those perceived to be enemies in the drug war. Developments in the wake of Raich also suggest that any intelligence gathered in a raid would later be used to punish certain activists if the opportunity presented itself.

Early Federal Raids

The three raids to be discussed weren't the only ones on medical marijuana facilities during the first five years under 215, but they seem to have been the most significant.

All three began early in the morning and took place in a relatively brief 1 year interval between September 2001 and September 2002, in three separate venues. The first was the small Northern California town of Cool (near Sacramento), the second was actually a series of raids on separate locations in the Bay Area in February, 2002, and the third took place in Davenport, a tiny coastal community north of Santa Cruz in September the same year.

The (not so) Cool raid targeted the home, offices, and storage facility of two professionals, Doctor Mollie Fry, her lawyer husband, and their adolescent children. The principal targets of the second, were the Piedmont home of Ed Rosenthal, already famous for his “Ask Ed’” column in High Times, the Mandela Parkway warehouse where he was thought to be growing clones, and selected local buyers' clubs (then called dispensaries) he had been providing them to. In addition, several others, who had been associated with Rosenthal in one capacity or another, were also raided.

The last was the September 2002 raid on WAMM described by Chapkis and Webb, in which Valerie Corral, and her husband Michael were treated like Shafer, Dr. Fry, and their children: forced to lie prone with guns to their heads in typical DEA intimidation style. Whether Ed Rosenthal was treated in similar fashion was not reported, but somehow, I think he was not.

These entries are being written as time permits; the trials I plan to deal with are those of Dustin Costa, in which I testified, attended the sentencing, the second trial of Ed Rosenthal, which was a repeat of the first, and also involved many people I had come to know, the last, also in 2007, was of Mollie Fry and Dale Shafer, both known to me through professional meetings with other Cannabis Clinicians.

My knowledge of the Rosenthal and Fry-Shafer trials depends to a great extent on remarkably lucid descriptions by Vanessa Nelson, which I hope everyone with a serious interest in cannabis policy will read.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 13, 2009 05:48 AM