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Pain Medicine: Judge Dismisses Most Serious Charges in Hurwitz Retrial

The judge presiding over the retrial of prominent Northern Virginia pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz has dismissed the most serious charges against him. On Wednesday, as the defense rested in the month-long retrial, Judge Leonie Brinkema granted a defense request to dismiss charges of causing bodily injury or death. Hurwitz still faces dozens of drug trafficking counts linked to his pain management medical practice.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hurwitz.jpg
Dr. Hurwitz in 1996
Hurwitz was originally convicted in November 2004 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has been there ever since, even though the original verdict was overturned on appeal. While he could still face substantial prison time if found guilty again, he will not face the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence that the charge of causing bodily injury or death carries.

In dismissing the charges, Brinkema agreed with two arguments advanced by the defense. First was that prosecutors had not proven the pain relievers prescribed by Hurwitz caused death or injury. Second was that the US Supreme Court in its decision upholding Oregon's right to die law last year ruled that federal drug laws did not give the Justice Department the power "to define general standards of medical practice."

That is precisely what federal prosecutors have done in dozens of cases like Hurwitz's. Prosecutors repeatedly -- and often successfully -- argued that doctors prescribing high dose of opioid pain relievers were outside the bounds of "accepted medical practice," and thus drug dealers, not doctors.

Now it will be more difficult for prosecutors to win a new conviction against Hurwitz. They must show that he knew the drugs he prescribed would be resold or abused and prescribed them anyway. Hurwitz has steadfastly denied that. Now prosecutors will have to prove that his problem patients were so obviously drug addicts and dealers that he had to have known his prescriptions were being diverted.

Medical Marijuana: Feds to Retry Ed Rosenthal in Futile Prosecution

Federal prosecutors in the Ed Rosenthal medical marijuana cultivation case announced last Friday they will retry the guru of ganja, even though they cannot send him to prison and even though the presiding judge urged them to drop the case and admonished them for vindictively prosecuting him. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who has overseen the case from the beginning, demanded that prosecutors tell him who in the Justice Department had authorized this new prosecution.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/edrosenthalcourtdate.jpg
Ed Rosenthal at courthouse, with supporters, September 2006 (courtesy indybay.org)
Rosenthal was convicted in federal court in San Francisco in 2003 on marijuana cultivation charges after Breyer ruled he could not present evidence showing he was cultivating medicinal marijuana legally under California law and with the approval of local authorities. When jury members heard the rest of the story after they convicted him, they held a news conference to denounce their own verdict.

In the wake of the juror rebellion, Judge Breyer sentenced Rosenthal to one day in jail, which he had already served. While his original conviction was overturned because of juror misconduct, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the one-day sentence, which prosecutors had appealed.

But that same ruling affirmed the federal government's right to prosecute medical marijuana violators, and the prosecutors, led by US Attorney Scott Schools, apparently irked by Rosenthal's high profile criticisms of them, decided to retry him on the cultivation charges and throw in four counts of money laundering and five counts of filing a false federal income tax return as well. Breyer threw out the new charges last month, saying they were solely to punish Rosenthal for winning his appeal.

"This isn't a criminal case, this is a political case," Rosenthal told reporters as he arrived at the courthouse dressed in a blue wizard's robe with a golden marijuana leaf emblazoned over the breast. "I may as well get my money's worth and have a trial."

Employers grapple with medical marijuana use

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
USA Today
URL: 
http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2007-04-16-medical-marijuana-usat_N.htm

Federal prosecutors will retry Oakland, Calif., marijuana grower known as the 'ganja guru'

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Arizona Daily Star
URL: 
http://www.azstarnet.com/news/178376

Right to treatment: Fire survivor takes on county’s marijuana position

Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Diego CityBeat
URL: 
http://www.sdcitybeat.com/article.php?id=5577

ASA's Medical Marijuana in the News: Week of 3/23

FEDERAL: Raich Medical Marijuana Ruling Draws Criticism CONNECTICUT: Medical Marijuana Bill Supported MINNESOTA: State Medical Marijuana Measure Moves Forward RHODE ISLAND: Medical Marijuana Law Needs Action NEW MEXICO: Lawmakers’ Courage Lauded WASHINGTON: Limits of Medical Marijuana Law Questioned CALIFORNIA: Medical Marijuana ID Card Protections Clarified DISPENSARIES: Support from Officials with Experience __________________________________________ FEDERAL: Raich Medical Marijuana Ruling Drawing More Criticism Some take issue with the legal reasoning underpinning an appellate court’s ruling that Angel Raich, a terminally ill California who has been seeking protection from federal prosecution, cannot claim medical necessity for the purpose of an injunction. But all agree that keeping life-saving medicine from anyone must be wrong. Marijuana as medicine a decision for doctors EDITORIAL, The Republican (MA) Under the supervision of a physician, with adequate controls to prevent its abuse or improper use, marijuana is a proven, effective treatment for some seriously ill patients. The nation's lawmakers should look in their own medicine cabinets where they might find prescription drugs far more toxic and dangerous than marijuana. The Case of Angel Raich by Jon Carroll, Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle I think the federal government, in this case, is no better than a thug. I think that prosecutors who go after medical marijuana cases are criminals, morally if not actually. I think all the people who have participated in giving people ridiculous three-strike prison sentences for marijuana-related crimes are hypocrites and fools. It's an obvious and complete injustice. They all know it. They should all be ashamed of themselves. U.S. Judges Kill the Ninth Amendment by Fred E. Foldvary, Editorial, The Progress Report The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed on March 14 that the Ninth Amendment to the United States is now null and void, and that the federal government of the United States of America has no moral legitimacy. The judges did not explicitly express those statements in their ruling, but that is the implication. The case involved a woman whose life, according to her doctor, can only be preserved with medical marijuana. The judges ruled that the federal government may nevertheless prosecute her for violating federal laws regarding drugs. __________________________________________ CONNECTICUT: Medical Marijuana Bill Supported Emmy-award winning talkshow host Montel Williams lent support to a bill advancing through the Connecticut legislature. The former marine has been outspoken about how marijuana has helped him fight the symptoms of MS. Montel Williams makes emotional plea for Conn. medical marijuana bill by Susan Haigh, Associated Press Syndicated television talk show host Montel Williams choked back tears Friday as he urged Connecticut lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes. Conn. lawmakers resurrect bill to allow medical use of marijuana by Susan Haigh, Associated Press A move to legalize marijuana for people suffering from certain medical problems cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday, giving hope to those who've been pushing for the bill for several years. Conn. judiciary panel OKs medical marijuana by Ken Dixon, Connecticut Post Connecticut would become the 13th state to let gravely ill people use marijuana, under legislation overwhelmingly approved Wednesday in the Judiciary Committee after a brief debate. __________________________________________ MINNESOTA: State Medical Marijuana Measure Moves Forward Committee by committee, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow Minnesotans to use marijuana on their doctors’ advice. Public opinion polls there show strong support for protecting patients. Minn. medical marijuana bill takes another step forward by Joe Fryer, KARE 11 (Minneapolis) A proposal to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with their doctors' permission is working its way through the state legislature. Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Approved By Second House Panel Drug War Chronicle Members of a Minnesota House committee Monday voted to approve a medical marijuana bill despite the objections of law enforcement. The House Public Safety and Civil Law Committee approved the bill, HF655, on an 11-8 vote. It has already passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and is now headed for the House Finance Committee. __________________________________________ RHODE ISLAND: Medical Marijuana Law Needs Action The “sunset clause” Rhode Island lawmakers added to their medical marijuana bill means that the protections it affords will expire without further action by the legislature. By all accounts the program has been successful, with only one problem reported. ASA's Rhode Island Campaign for Safe Access is working to educate the community and legislators. Medical marijuana advocates ask to make law permanent Associated Press Medical marijuana advocates ask legislators to permanently legalize medicinal marijuana in Rhode Island. __________________________________________ NEW MEXICO: Lawmakers’ Courage Lauded The reversal of fortune for patients in New Mexico – with the legislature defeating a medical bill one week and then passing another the next – has opinionmakers commending the officials who found the courage to act. Editorial: Applaud lawmakers for medical pot bill EDITORIAL, Albuquerque Tribune It took years, a lot of wrangling and considerable grief, but finally New Mexico will join 11 other progressive and caring states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. __________________________________________ WASHINGTON: Limits of Medical Marijuana Law Questioned The purpose of medical marijuana laws is clear: to protect patients from prison. The details of how patients are to comply with state medical laws can cause problems however, with some patients excluded on technicalities or issues of timing. Busted Pullman man fighting pot conviction by Courtney Adams, Daily Evergreen Nearly three years after being busted for marijuana possession, a Pullman man is still appealing a court decision that found him guilty of the crime. Loren R. Hanson grew marijuana plants after receiving information from his doctor, intending to use the marijuana to treat his glaucoma, his lawyer said. __________________________________________ CALIFORNIA: Medical Marijuana ID Card Protections Clarified State ID cards may guarantee patients protection from arrest, but according to a state appeals court, they don’t protect against searches. Law enforcement officers can confirm that patients who have state ID cards are within state or county amount guidelines. Pot card can't stop searches, court says by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle California's medical marijuana law doesn't protect card-carrying patients from being stopped and searched by police who detect the presence of the drug, a state appeals court ruled Thursday. Court: Medical Marijuana Law Doesn't Bar Search by Bay City News, KPIX CBS 5 (San Francisco) California's medical marijuana law doesn't protect a person who claims to be a patient from a reasonable search of his or her car, a state appeals court in San Francisco ruled today. __________________________________________ DISPENSARIES: Support from Officials with Experience The importance of medical marijuana dispensaries to the most seriously ill Californians is obvious to their family and friends. When those family or friends are also local officials, there is no need to explain that dispensaries are a compassionate, community-based solution for providing access. In communities with moratoria in place, ASA is working to educate officials on the benefits of sound regulations for dispensaries. Politics of Caring by Zachary Stahl, Monterey County Herald When City Council-member Jyl Lutes’ then-husband lost his appetite during a battle with bone cancer more than 20 years ago, Stanford doctors gave him an experimental prescription: a vial of tightly-rolled joints. The marijuana cigarettes, she recalls, had a stamp from the Department of Agriculture on them and the directions read, “smoke at the first sign of nausea.” Lutes says the pot helped ease the pain of his last days—he died at the age of 30. Fontana staff: Ban pot dispensaries, for now by Michael Mello, Press-Enterprise (CA) Saying there's a local need, medical-marijuana advocates recently approached Fontana's Department of Community Development with questions about what city codes said concerning the operation of dispensaries. DHS extends medical marijuana moratorium by Bill Byron, Desert Sun Medical marijuana will have to wait at least another year in Desert Hot Springs.
Location: 
United States

Trafficker or Healer? And Who’s the Victim?

Location: 
Alexandria, VA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/27/science/27tier.html?ref=science

Is This the Answer to Drug Use?

Location: 
Hackettstown, NJ
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/25RDRUG.html

Drug Policy Forum of Kansas Update

Wakarusa Music Festival: Volunteers Needed KS Legislature: Meth Offender Registry Update ACLU Forum on Wakarusa Law Enforcement Past Issues Medical Marijuana: Two Federal Court Rulings Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Passes Legislation Next Volunteer Meeting March 24, 1 p.m. The Drug Policy Forum of Kansas is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are tax-deductible. Volunteers Needed for Wakarusa Music Festival DPFKS members interested in volunteering to work a few hours a day at the Wakarusa Music Festival, should send us an email (info@dpfks.org). The festival takes place June 7-10 at Clinton State Park outside of Lawrence. KS House Holds Hearing on SB 14: Meth Offender Registry SB 14 would create a registry on the KBI web site for people who have been released from prison for manufacturing methamphetamine. The registration would require a $20 fee every six months for life. Testifying in opposition to SB 14 were DPFKS along with KS Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a representative from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the parents of a currently incarcerated meth offender. Read the testimony on our website and why this bill is a waste of taxpayer money that will not reduce drug use or illegal drug availability. Wakarusa '07 - Privacy Rights in Public Places; ACLU forum April 25 at 7pm at the Lawrence Library the Douglas County ACLU will present a panel discussion with Brett Shirk, Executive Director of the KS/WMO ACLU, Rick Frydman, attorney and Charles Branson, Douglas County DA, There will be a panel discussion and questions from the audience. Judge in Ed Rosenthal Throws Out Charges Due to Vindictive Prosecution Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled this week that author and medical marijuana activist Edward Rosenthal was vindictively prosecuted, and dismissed charges of tax evasion and money laundering. The remaining marijuana charges against Rosenthal are virtually identical to those pursued against him in his prior 2003 trial. With an admission in court by the U.S. Attorney that it would not seek additional punishment beyond the one-day sentence Rosenthal was given after being convicted at his first trial, the prosecution has little reason to proceed with the case. 9th Circuit Court Rules Against California Legal Medical Marijuana Patient The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected and appeal by Angel Raich (the California woman who was arrested by the DEA for using a small amount of marijuana recommended by her physician and legal under California law), ruling that there is no fundamental constitutional right to use marijuana for relief of pain and suffering. In a 3-0 ruling, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote, "We agree with Raich that medical and conventional wisdom that recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction in the law as well. But that legal recognition has not yet reached the point where a conclusion can be drawn that the right to use medical marijuana is "fundamental" and "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." The court also rejected Raich's contention that the 10th Amendment protected her right to use medical marijuana. New Mexico Poised to Become 12th State to Fully Protect Medical Marijuana Patients From DRCNet: First it passed the Senate and died in the House. Then, at the urging of Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexico's Senate folded medical marijuana into a related bill to permit topical use. This week the bill passed the House 36-31. It must return to the Senate for consideration of a minor change that occured in the House, but given strong support there and the assurance of the Governor's signature, I believe it's safe to say we're looking at our 12th medical marijuana state. Richardson's willingness to stand up for patients at this time speaks volumes to the growing political viability of medical marijuana policy reform. The Boston Globe looks at the political implications of Richardson's stance on medical marijuana and concludes that it's not a big deal. Next Volunteer Meeting Saturday, March 24, 1 p.m. at the DPFKS offices -- 941 Kentucky Street, Lawrence, KS 785-841-8278 for more information.
Location: 
KS
United States

ASA Press Release: Federal Judge Rules Medical Marijuana Patient Vindictively Prosecuted

AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 Federal Judge Rules Medical Marijuana Patient Vindictively Prosecuted Charges of tax evasion and money laundering against Ed Rosenthal are dismissed *San Francisco* -- Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled today that author and medical marijuana activist Edward Rosenthal was vindictively prosecuted, and dismissed charges of tax evasion and money laundering. The remaining marijuana charges against Rosenthal are virtually identical to those pursued against him in his prior 2003 trial. With an admission in court by the U.S. Attorney that it would not seek additional punishment beyond the one-day sentence Rosenthal was given after being convicted at his first trial, the prosecution has little reason to proceed with the case. "We are gratified that the court has recognized the vindictive nature of this prosecution and has reigned in the prosecutor," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel for Americans for Safe Access, and author of the successful vindictive prosecution motion. "The additional charges brought against Rosenthal were clearly in retaliation for his criticism of the government. Taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on a vendetta carried out by a prosecutor against a defendant." Judge Breyer's ruling follows a hearing last week in which the court ordered the government to produce all prosecutorial memoranda explaining the reason for a second prosecution of Rosenthal. The order is the result of a motion to dismiss based on vindictive prosecution filed by Americans for Safe Access and other attorneys with Rosenthal's legal team. The substance of the brief was that the government was retaliating against Rosenthal for his successful appeal and his statements to the press that his first trial was unfair. In his ruling, Judge Breyer asserted that "the government's deeds--and words--create the perception that it added the new charges to make Rosenthal look like a common criminal and thus dissipate the criticism heaped on the government after the first trial," because he criticized the government. "The government was clearly out of line to bring this case forward against me," said Rosenthal. "The court's ruling is reassuring, but my continued prosecution on the marijuana charges is still malicious. To make me and my family go through a second prosecution to obtain, at most, a one-day time served jail sentence seems personally motivated." Rosenthal was recently re-indicted after his 2003 conviction was overturned in April 2006 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After finding out that medical marijuana evidence had been excluded from the 2003 trial, a majority of the jurors that convicted Rosenthal recanted their verdict. Due at least in part to public outcry, Rosenthal was sentenced to one day in jail. The government was relying on the new charges of tax evasion and money laundering to justify the second prosecution of Rosenthal. The court has now confirmed that Rosenthal's continued prosecution is suspect. "It is a monumental day for justice that the court has recognized the vindictive nature of this prosecution and has dismissed all allegations of financial misconduct," said attorney Robert Amparán, from Rosenthal's legal team. "We feel strongly that the vindictiveness of this prosecution will spill over from the dismissed charges onto the remaining medical marijuana charges and that the jury will ultimately vindicate Mr. Rosenthal." The defense team for Rosenthal includes the following attorneys: Robert Amparán, Shari Greenberger, and Omar Figueroa, with Joe Elford acting as co-counsel for the specific purpose of authoring and arguing the motion to dismiss based on vindictive prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan stated earlier in a remarkably candid admission that the reason for this second prosecution of Rosenthal is a direct response to "the specific comments that Rosenthal and others made." The prosecutor further admitted in a recent legal filing that it sought out and held its new evidence in abeyance, so it "would be in a position to charge Rosenthal with [additional charges] if the Ninth Circuit reversed his conviction." At Rosenthal's first appearance on new charges, in October 2006, the court remarked, in reference to public comments by the defendant at the time of his 2003 conviction: "[Rosenthal] can say whatever he wants to about the prosecution, and he can say whatever he wants to about the judge. That is his constitutional right." U.S. District Court Ruling on Vindictive Prosecution: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_VP_Ruling.pdf Vindictive prosecution motion: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_Vindictive_Prosecution.pdf Government's opposition: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_Opposition.pdf Rosenthal's reply: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_Reply.pdf For more information on Ed Rosenthal's cases: http://safeaccessnow.org/EdRosenthal
Location: 
CA
United States

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