Federal Courts

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Feds plan to retry marijuana advocate

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/17/BABADIGEST32.DTL&hw=marijuana&sn=001&sc=1000

'Bong' Case Tests Students' Free Speech

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/03/16/national/w134358D05.DTL&type=politics

Black guard sues over drug searches

Location: 
PA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
URL: 
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/news/fayette/s_498084.html

Supreme Court: “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case Rally

Dozens of high school students with signs and banners will hold a free speech rally outside the Supreme Court as justices hear oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. If the government has its way, the ruling in the case could allow school administrators to punish students just for questioning the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program, the humiliation of school drug testing policies, or the invasiveness of random locker searches. The case focuses on Joseph Frederick, who was suspended in 2002 from a high school in Alaska after holding up a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school trip to see the Olympic torch parade pass by. This rally, organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will feature two students who had political campaign t-shirts advocating medical marijuana confiscated by school officials, as well as students prevented from starting an SSDP chapter at their public high school because their principal didn’t agree with the group’s anti-drug war message. The students will display a large “Free Speech 4 Students” banner on the steps of the Court. * Links to the organizations’ amicus briefs can be found online at www.ssdp.org/freespeech/ and www.drugpolicy.org/news/freespeech.cfm *
Date: 
Mon, 03/19/2007 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
E Capitol St. NE and 1st St. NE
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Medical Marijuana: Federal Appeals Court Rules Angel Raich Can Be Prosecuted, Even If Only Marijuana Keeps Her Alive

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday ruled that Angel Raich, an Oakland woman whose doctor says marijuana is keeping her alive, can still be prosecuted on federal drug charges. Raich and her attorneys had argued that the desperately ill have the right to use marijuana to keep themselves alive when all other drugs fail.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/angel-raich-may-2005.jpg
Angel Raich, May 2005
Raich is the woman who went all the way to the Supreme Court seeking protection for medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal. But she lost in a 2005 decision when the court held that patients and their providers could indeed be prosecuted under federal law even if their states had legalized it.

Raich suffers from a brain tumor, scoliosis, chronic nausea, and a number of other medical conditions. She uses marijuana every couple of hours to gain appetite and suppress pain on her doctor's recommendation.

The ruling does not mean Raich will be prosecuted. She filed the lawsuit preemptively, in an effort to avoid any possible future arrest. Because Raich's doctors believe medical marijuana is essential to her survival, she argued that for the government to deprive her of her medicine would violate the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that no person may be "deprived of life... without due process of law."

But in its opinion this week the three-judge appeals court panel ruled that the United States is not yet at the point where "the right to use medical marijuana is 'fundamental' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'" The court did suggest, however, that if Raich were ever arrested, she could seek to mount a "medical necessity" defense.

"The court has just sentenced me to death," Angel Raich said in a written statement. "My doctors agree that medical cannabis is essential to my very survival, and the government did not even contest the medical evidence. Every American should be frightened by this ruling. If we don't have a right to live, what do we have left?"

"Today's decision marks a disappointing setback for rational medical policy as well as fundamental constitutional rights in America," said Robert Raich, attorney for the plaintiff. "We may ask the Supreme Court to review the case, and may ask the district court to review issues that the Ninth Circuit left unresolved."

"Today's ruling is shocking, but it's not the end of the struggle," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Last June, legislation to end the federal government's war on medical marijuana in the 11 states where medical marijuana is legal received a record number of votes in the US House of Representatives, and support has grown this year. This is literally a matter of life and death for Angel and thousands of other patients, and we will keep fighting on both the legal and political fronts until every patient is safe."

SSDP/DPA Press Release: Supreme Court Could Silence Student Political Speech in “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case

NEWS ADVISORY: March 14, 2007 CONTACT: Tom Angell, SSDP, tel: 202-293-4414 (office), 202-557-4979 (cell) or tom@ssdp.org, or Tony Newman, DPA, tel: 646-335-5384 or tnewman@drugpolicy.org Supreme Court Could Silence Student Political Speech in “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case Student Drug Policy Activists to Rally Outside Court WASHINGTON, DC – Dozens of high school students with signs and banners will hold a free speech rally outside the Supreme Court on Monday as justices hear oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. If the government has its way, the ruling in the case could allow school administrators to punish students just for questioning the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program, the humiliation of school drug testing policies, or the invasiveness of random locker searches. The case focuses on Joseph Frederick, who was suspended in 2002 from a high school in Alaska after holding up a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school trip to see the Olympic torch parade pass by. This Monday’s rally, organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will feature two students who had political campaign t-shirts advocating medical marijuana confiscated by school officials, as well as students prevented from starting an SSDP chapter at their public high school because their principal didn’t agree with the group’s anti-drug war message. The students will display a large “Free Speech 4 Students” banner on the steps of the Court. WHO: Student activists, free speech advocates, drug policy reform advocates WHAT: Rally supporting students’ 1st Amendment right to criticize ineffective drug policies WHEN: Monday, March 19, 2007 @ 11:00 AM (immediately following end of oral arguments) WHERE: U.S. Supreme Court steps; E Capitol St. NE and 1st St. NE; Washington, DC 20001 “This case focuses on one student’s absurd banner, but if the Court accepts the school’s argument, free speech will be silenced in classrooms across the country,” said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The War on Drugs impacts young people every day. Students must retain their First Amendment right to debate drug policies that directly affect them.” “There is a rich tradition in our country of students actively and eloquently participating in timely debates affecting local and national policies – from the Vietnam War to the Drug War, and animal rights to civil rights. Given their distinct perspectives, students should be heard, and they should hear one another. We silence them at our peril,” said Daniel Abrahamson, DPA’s director of legal affairs. Frederick sued his principal and school after receiving a 10-day suspension. Losing in federal district court, he won appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Ken Starr is arguing the case for the school. * Links to the organizations’ amicus briefs can be found online at www.ssdp.org/freespeech/ and www.drugpolicy.org/news/freespeech.cfm *
Location: 
DC
United States

Medical Marijuana: Federal Judge Dismisses Charges Against Ed Rosenthal

A federal district court judge dismissed money-laundering and tax evasion charges against Ed Rosenthal Wednesday, saying federal prosecutors had vindictively re-indicted the "Guru of Ganja" after he publicly criticized them in the wake of his successful appeal of his 2003 marijuana cultivation conviction. In that case, Rosenthal was convicted after not being allowed to present evidence he was growing for medicinal purposes, but was sentenced to only one day in jail after the jury protested upon hearing the rest of the story.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/edrosenthalcourtdate.jpg
Ed Rosenthal at courthouse, with supporters, September 2006 (courtesy indybay.org)
The same judge who presided over Rosenthal's first trial, US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, ruled that prosecutors illegally retaliated against Rosenthal by re-indicting him for the acts that were the basis of his original conviction, which was overturned last year, and piling on with the tax evasion and money-laundering charges over a sum that amounted to less than $1,900.

Federal prosecutors tried "to make Rosenthal look like a common criminal and thus dissipate the criticism heaped on the government after the first trial," Breyer said in his opinion. That perception, he said, "will discourage defendants from exercising their First Amendment right to criticize their prosecutions and their statutory right to appeal their convictions."

While he dismissed the two financial counts, Judge Breyer let stand Rosenthal's indictment for growing marijuana for medical patients. But that doesn't give prosecutors much to work with because Breyer also noted that even if he were convicted in a new trial, they could not seek to sentence him to more than the one day that he has already served. That leaves them with the equally unpalatable options of appealing the decision to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals -- the same court that overturned the original conviction -- or pursuing a conviction where they cannot punish Rosenthal even if they win.

Assistant US Attorney George Bevan, the chief prosecutor on the case, helped Judge Breyer prove the case for a revenge prosecution. While Bevan told Breyer he would not seek additional prison time on the marijuana counts, he said he was "committed to doing the retrial and seeing the case to a conclusion." That remark came after Bevan told the court in October that Rosenthal had complained about not getting a fair trial because he could not mention medical marijuana. "So, I'm saying, this time around, he wants the financial side reflected, fine, let's air this thing out," Bevan said. "Let's have the whole conduct before the jury: tax, money-laundering, marijuana."

In Wednesday's ruling, Breyer noted Bevan's candor but said his comments only "confirm the appearance of vindictiveness."

"The government was clearly out of line to bring this case forward against me," said Rosenthal in a statement released by his attorneys. "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."

"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."

9th Circuit: Avoiding Certain Death No Excuse for Medical Marijuana Use

In what has otherwise been an exciting week of drug policy news, we're sad to report that the 9th circuit has rejected Angel Raich's "right to life" challenge against federal medical marijuana laws.

Basically, the court ruled that it would be legal for the government to cause her death by withholding her medicine. From The New York Times:
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that while they sympathized with Ms. Raich’s plight and had seen “uncontroverted evidence” that she needed marijuana to survive, she lacked the legal grounds to exempt herself from federal law.

The court “recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction,” the decision read. “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.’ ”
I would argue that the right to not die for stupid political reasons is fundamental enough.

Really there are only like six people in Washington D.C. who are entirely responsible for the illegality of medical marijuana. Their continuing lies are instrumental in maintaining the broader but shrinking population of medical marijuana opponents. If no one falsely accused people like Angel Raich of lying about their medical needs, this perverse debate would be long dead and several nice people would still be alive.

So why is the 9th Circuit so afraid of this handful of sniveling, malicious bureaucrats? If they're trying to avoid being tagged as left-leaning judicial activists, someone should tell them it's already too late.

Location: 
United States

Ed Rosenthal Vindicated From Vindictive Charges

We all knew Ed Rosenthal was being vindictively prosecuted, but it's nice to a hear a federal judge say it. From The San Francisco Chronicle:
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco dismissed charges of tax evasion and money laundering against Ed Rosenthal, 62, an author and activist who has been dubbed the "Guru of Ganja."


The judge said he based his decision in part on the comments by prosecutor George Bevan during a hearing on the case. Bevan, according to transcripts, explained the decision to re-file charges, saying, "The purpose is this: Mr. Rosenthal, after the verdict, took to the microphone and said, 'I didn't get a fair trial.' ... So I'm saying, this time around, he wants the financial side reflected, fine, let's air this thing out. Let's have the whole conduct before the jury: Tax, money laundering, marijuana."
It's delightful to see the smug George Bevan held to account for his maliciousness, but frankly this only scratches the surface. Many have surmised that the targeting of Ed Rosenthal has always had everything to do with his notoriety as a cannabis cultivation expert. Considering what Rosenthal has been put through over the past several years, today's vindictive prosecution finding is long overdue.
He was first arrested after a federal raid in February 2002 at a West Oakland warehouse where Rosenthal was growing marijuana for what he said was medical use, with the support of Alameda County and Oakland officials. At trial in 2003, Breyer refused to let jurors learn about the intended medical use of the plants and excluded evidence about Proposition 215, California's 1996 medical marijuana initiative.

Rosenthal was convicted of violating federal drug laws, but seven of the 12 jurors said afterward that their verdict would have been different if they had been allowed to consider evidence about the medical use of the marijuana and Rosenthal's status as an agent in the Oakland program.
Breyer let Rosenthal off with a one-day sentence, humiliating federal prosecutors and sealing Ed's fate as a perpetual target.

The details of this ongoing legal saga are too numerous to list here, but the great irony of it all is worth fleshing out: after lying to the jury in order to convict him and being publicly humiliated when those same jurors turned against them, federal prosecutors responded to Rosenthal's appeal by piling on more charges in an attempt to punish him for challenging them. Today's vindictive prosecution finding not only exposes their malfeasance but also publicly reveals this tasty fact:
Breyer did not throw out the drug charges, but noted that "the government agreed at oral argument" that it will not seek more than the one-day sentence on those counts.

That's right, American taxpayers. Behold the glorious retribution of the principled and incorruptible federal prosecutors who've exhausted untold sums and incalculable man hours to protect you from a safe and effective medicine. Amidst Iraq, Katrina, Medicare, etc. the federal government was trying to save you from Ed Rosenthal by putting him in jail for one goddamn day. And they're still working on it, knowing as they have all along, that this is the best they can hope for.

There can be no redemption for the spiteful, treacherous cretins who label medical providers as drug dealers and seek to deceive Californian jurors about California's laws in order to imprison Californians. There can be no redemption for them, for they are the real criminals and the story of their shameful vendetta becomes more obscene with each attempt to rewrite it.

Still, the question remains: when is it not vindictive prosecution to launch a political war on medical providers as they carry out the will of the people?

Location: 
United States

Criminal charges against 'Guru of Ganja' tossed

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/14/BAGE4OL4TC8.DTL

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