David Davidson and Cynthia Blake, medical marijuana patients and growers from California's remote Tehama County, sat in court in Redding Tuesday awaiting the dismissal of state marijuana cultivation with intent to distribute charges against them as their attorney met with Tehama County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Strom in the judge's chambers. They got their wish -- Strom dropped state charges -- but only because she had handed the case over to the federal government.
Now Davidson and Blake are facing possible life sentences and a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence if convicted on the newly filed federal charges of conspiracy to grow more than a thousand plants with the intent to distribute and cultivation and possession of 100 plants. Medical marijuana supporters are crying foul.
"If Lynn Strom thought this a medical marijuana case, she should not have turned it over to the feds," said Hilary McQuie of Americans for Safe Access (http://www.safeaccessnow.org), a medical marijuana defense group, "and if she thought it wasn't a medical marijuana case, she should have prosecuted it at the state level," she told DRCNet. Instead, said McQuie, Strom interrupted the hearing in chambers by suddenly announcing: "I'm dropping the charges because federal marshals are arresting your clients at this very moment in the courtroom."
"She clearly thought she couldn't get a conviction, so she turned it over to the feds," said McQuie.
Strom was unavailable for comment Thursday, and a spokeswoman for the Tehama County District Attorney's office said no one else was, either.
Davidson has a medical marijuana patient card from the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop and a signed doctor's recommendation to use the herb, while Blake has only a verbal recommendation from her doctor, McQuie said. The novice growers, who were also growing for other patients, had planted about a thousand seedlings, "but most of them were dead," McQuie added.
According to McQuie, the California Attorney General's office told ASA that while turning cases over to the feds was not their practice, Strom did not do anything wrong. "I beg to differ," McQuie said. "Lynn Strom is a rabid anti-marijuana person. She was responsible for convicting someone last year for transporting medical marijuana. She said Prop. 215 didn't cover transportation. She has been going after people, and that is wrong."
ASA is calling out the troops for demonstrations at federal courthouses today. Protests have been confirmed for Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco, as well as Spokane and Cincinnati, while others may also take place. In Sacramento, Blake and Davidson will address a press conference at the courthouse, along with ASA's Steph Sherer and attorney Tony Sierra.
"We don't want another Bryan Epis case," said McQuie. "This is the same federal courthouse, the same federal prosecutor. This case is a good heads up to remind people that the federal war on patients hasn't ended. They've been attacking patients and providers throughout the Bush-Ashcroft administration. They may have laid low for awhile this election year, but they can still strike when they want."
Still, McQuie said, this appeared to be a case of an overzealous state prosecutor rather than a reinvigorated federal campaign of raids and prosecutions. "We think this was Lynn Strom's doing," she said, "but we would like to know more about how this decision was made."
Also, McQuie said, "this is all the more reason to join in on our national day of action at congressional district offices during Medical Marijuana Week (2-15 to 2-22) on Tuesday, Feb. 17 and demand Congress change the law to protect patients."
Last year's national day of action featured "evict the DEA" protests at DEA offices around the country. This year, ASA is suggesting a "Spank You/Thank You" (or thank/educate if you prefer) theme for press events at congressional district offices for representatives' records on medical marijuana. The goal is to get local coverage on both the issues and the representative's record in every hometown newspaper and local TV station.
Visit http://www.safeaccessnow.org to learn more about the National Day of Action.