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Medical Marijuana: First New Federal Prosecution in Three Years Underway in California

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #461)
Drug War Issues

The US Justice Department had not prosecuted a California medical marijuana patient since 2003, but that changed Wednesday as the federal trial of Merced County medical marijuana patient and provider Dustin Costa got under way in Fresno. Costa, a leading medical marijuana activist, was originally arrested on state charges, but Merced County prosecutors handed his case over to the feds when it became apparent that California's Compassionate Use Act would make it impossible to convict him under California law.

The last federal medical marijuana patient and provider trial in California was the Ed Rosenthal debacle. In that case, Rosenthal was convicted on federal marijuana manufacture charges after the jury was not allowed to hear testimony relating to medical marijuana. Rosenthal was convicted, but when jurors learned the rest of the story, many of them publicly denounced the trial and the verdict, and the federal judge trying the case sentenced him to only one day in jail.

In Costa's case, the 60-year-old retired Marine who headed the Merced Patients Group, a nonprofit cultivation collective, was originally arrested by Merced County sheriff's deputies when they raided a greenhouse he was using to cultivate marijuana for patients in March 2004. But local prosecutors turned the case over to the feds, and Costa was re-arrested on federal charges in August 2005. Since then, he has been imprisoned at the Fresno County Jail. If convicted on the charges, he faces a mandatory minimum 20-year federal prison sentence.

Costa now faces federal charges of cultivation, possession with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm. As in the Rosenthal case, Costa will not be allowed to even mention medical marijuana or its legality under state law during the trial.

"Dustin Costa is a victim of the federal government's refusal to respect medical science," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy group. "He and all the others being denied a medical defense at trial are the new targets in our government's war on patients."

Costa may be the first medical marijuana patient to be tried by the feds since the Rosenthal trial, but he probably will not be the last. According to figures compiled by Americans for Safe Access, at least 91 other California patients and providers have been arrested on federal marijuana charges and are awaiting trial.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Theyr'e many people in CA who have been arrested for cultivating/distributing. Case in point: Eddy Lepp(Google the name - Lake County, CA). As a disc jockey on KPFZ 104.5 FM Lake County Community Radio I had the good luck to interview Eddy & his wife Linda(an absolute saint of a woman) a few times- talking of the political & legal fights he had for the rest of us in this horrible & unnneeded war on medical marijuana. He actually had marujuana siezed & then returned by the local C.H.P. a few years ago. Christ, when will this end? Sick & dying patients need this medicine, when will the politicans & law enforcement realize they are not doctors, they do not know whats best for our individual health needs.

Fri, 11/10/2006 - 9:40pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hello all!
The citizens of the U.S. are "finally" coming together. This past election showed everyone, especially the polititions, that we will not let the government "screw" the middle class any more! We've got to keep that going!

Here's a sugestiom for a plan to "help" us get the medicine, Pot, we need:

Ask every politition "what they would do to help patients" get their medicine. They're either for or against.
By now everyone should have an opinion so no excuses,
as to not knowing enough on the subject or whatever.

If their for, we'll spread the word to "vote" for that person!
If their against, we'll spread the word to "not" vote for them!

It sounds simple. It could be.........
Anyone agree?


Fri, 11/24/2006 - 6:24pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I object to this continuing war on individuals' right to use any medical treatment they think will help them, especially if it is proven scientifically to work, but even those that are "unproven" should be available to those people who want to take the risk. After all, who owns your body? You? Or the government?

Peace and prosperity can only come within a society of justice and freedom, a society of responsible individuals who respect property rights.
-Michael S. Rozeff (in Spooner and Beyond)

And the very first (and most important) property one owns is one's own body! I expect government to respect and protect my property rights, beginning with that most important property -- my body and extending that right up through every single piece of property I acquire -- from clothing to art objects to stocks/bonds/money to real estate and with no restrictions on how much I may acquire, nor which items.

A civil society does not use force to punish people for their personal indiscretions or unpopular lifestyles, nor does it erect national bureaucracies and militarized police agencies to address issues properly addressed at the personal, family, and community level.
- Anthony Gregory

[T]here is only one kind of rights: individual rights.
- Scott McPherson, policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Sat, 11/11/2006 - 3:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

While we are focusing on the issue of medical marijuana, it might be good to remember the dastardly tactics used by the courts. The fact that California, unable to prosecute because of the Compassionate Use Act, turns people over to the Feds for prosecution is a shame. The fact that prosecutors can prevent the complete disclosure of evidence in a trial is a shame. The fact that these people now face a criminal record and harassment from law enforcement for the rest of their lives is a shame.

How much longer will the states tolerate this blatant interference with the will of its citizens? Are the gains from the Federal cash cow so lucrative that the states cannot operate without it? Does any of this sound like...addiction?

Sat, 11/11/2006 - 8:24pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I for one am sick and tired of the courts, Judges refusing those on trial to present their evidence. Who do they think they are telling people well you can testify but you can't tell the whole truth. Judges like that should be taken from the courtroom by the People and forever bared from entering one again, unless as a defendant in their own trial.In fact they should be tried for treason against the People for their actions.
One can not have a legitimate trial, a fair and balance trial, if they are not allowed to present any and all evidence in their defense against unreasonable and unconstitutional laws.
It is high time that the People rose up against this tyranny and the Feds Kangaroo court system.

Sun, 11/12/2006 - 8:29pm Permalink

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