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Medical Marijuana: Bryan Epis Returned to Federal Prison, Must Serve Out 10-Year Sentence for Growing Pot for the Sick

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #622)
Politics & Advocacy

Bryan Epis, the first California medical marijuana provider to be prosecuted and convicted for growing marijuana for patients, was sent back to federal prison Monday by a federal judge in Sacramento. Epis had served two years of his sentence before he was released in 2004 by an order of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bryan Epis
The now more than 12-year-old case began in 1997, when Epis was arrested for growing at least 100 marijuana plants in the basement of his Chico home. During his trial, Epis testified that he was growing for himself and four other medical marijuana patients, with any excess marijuana going to a medical cannabis buyers' club.

But based on business plans Epis had sketched out to expand on his garden and prosecutors' allegations he was only in it for the money, a jury in Sacramento found him guilty in July 2002 of growing more than 100 plants and conspiracy to grow more than 1,000 plants. He received a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, in part because his house was within 1,000 feet of a local high school.

Epis served two years in federal prison before winning a ruling from the 9th Circuit that he should be freed pending the resolution of the landmark Raich v. Gonzalez case. Unfortunately for Epis, the US Supreme Court ruled in that case that federal drug laws trump state medical marijuana laws.

Epis was resentenced to 10 years in 2007, but had been free on $500,000 bail pending appeal. But the 9th Circuit decided against him in August, the US Supreme Court declined to review that ruling, and the end came Monday.

Federal prosecutor Samuel Wong, who has been Epis' bête noir since the beginning of the case, didn't let up Monday. He continued to insist that the case had nothing to do with medical marijuana. "As the court knows, this is not a medical marijuana case. That term doesn't ever apply to cases of this scope," Wong charged. "Mr. Bryan Epis grew and distributed large amounts of marijuana even before the law changed in California," he added, although Epis was never charged with that.

Attorney John Balazs, who represented Epis, asked that he be given a surrender date so that he could explore other means of overturning the conviction and sentence. But US District Court Judge Frank Damrell was having none of it. "It's over, Mr. Epis."

Epis was then taken to a holding cell as his girlfriend and daughter wept. If nothing happens to change things, he won't be free again until around 2017.

Last year, the US Justice Department made it department policy not to persecute medical marijuana providers in compliance with state law. But it has yet to stop the prosecutions of medical marijuana providers arrested before then or move to provide relief for those imprisoned after being convicted under Clinton and Bush-era policies.

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.


Edward Phillips (not verified)

Everyday when I leave the I try to start my car however my car won't start, so I can't get to work on time.
I have been doing this for forty years or more. I can't figure out why I can't get to work on time. I have lost every job I ever had!

Well my friends that is the 'nature of the Drug War' complete stupidity. Nonetheless nothing seems to change even with the so-called change-master Obama.
So now I decided to downgrade the US Policy to 'Imbecilic' and the DEA and DOJ are not stupid, because stupid is to intelligent for them

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 1:55pm Permalink
tokerdesigner (not verified)

Couldn't resist the temptation to try and help previous poster understand what the fwcq is going on.

1. You have to understand, for centuries the Other thing this continent was known for worldwide besides Black Slavery was slave drug nicotine tobackgo.

2. Today Big 2WackGo knows cannabis is destined to exterminate hot burning overdose $igarette profits from the market because modern skunkweed teaches users to vaporize and economize. A halfdecade from now no kid may remember what a "joint" was, which would cut off an important recruitment gateway into buying and megasmoking those 700-mg. squares (pak-a-day habit now over $2000/year). One way the "Industry" tries to fend off vaporizers and one-hitters is to use the third leg of the MAT Modern American Trifecta, PUNISHMENT, against those who promote cannabis liberation, just as once in certain tobackgo-growing states it was a punishable crime to help a Slave to escape.

3. Agitate for Epis and all cannabis prisoners to have means of publishing a blog about cannabis liberation during jail time, on First Amendment Basis.

4. Study the history of (mostly indirect) Big 2Wackgo support for Punitive legislation, especially against "drugs" (cannabis), partly through paying the huge $igarette taxes to which governments are addicted (for example, Pakistan 10%, Russia 8%), partly through campaign support mostly to Republicans (biggest 2008 recipient: "Crack down on Pot" Giuliani).

5. They are interested in using any technicality to punish a guy a decade later or whenever, because, any time, historically, the intimidation has worked in their favor. We may have passed a tipping point when persecution produces martyrs instead and blows back in their face (like side-stream smoke).

6. Direct attack on the enemy: read "How to Make Smoke Pipes out of Everyday Objects" and related articles on wikiHow concerning cheap handmade 25-mg.-serving-size utensils to dislodge hot burning overdose 700-mg. nicotine $igarettes from the lives of your friends and, if you can manufacture enough, from the worldwide smoking accessories market. Once their overdose-based profits are gone the Oligarchs will no longer be able to fund perscution of cannabis users.

7. Even if you justly despise tobackgo make the point in promoting miniature Dosage Regulation Utensils that they are for any sifted herb (including the shredded tobackgo in $igarettes). Carry a few cannisters containing a gram of actual sifted alfalfa, basil, camomile, damiana, eucalyptus etc. or the tobackgo rescued from a 700-mg. overdose square. Just for legal protection y'know.

8. 25-mg. serving-size utensils economize so well they shrink consumer demand and the need for any individual to take on the legalistic risk of raising 100 or 1000 plants. (But we will anyway, it's called Rieferforestation.)

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 6:07pm Permalink
NOT Mike Ramsey (not verified)

The article above is incorrect.

It states that Epis was never prosecuted for growing marijuana prior to the passage of California Proposition 215 in November, 1994.

In fact, Bryan was charged with cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale in Butte County Superior Court case number CM003933, filed in May, 1994, more than two and a half years before California voters passed Proposition 215.

The 1994 case involved a bust at the same home as the 1997 bust.

The Butte County court dismissed the case after the feds got involved following Bryan's 1997 arrest, and the U.S. Attorney decided not to pursue charges related to the 1994 arrest due to police misconduct.

The case is definitely a travesty, but getting the facts wrong doesn't help.

Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:45pm Permalink
Hugh Jardon (not verified)

 Bryan wasn't alone on the 1994 misadventure that ultamitly led to his legal shitstorm. Let's not forget John C Moreaux who escaped prosecution until, like Bryan Epis, was manhandled in 1997 by the D.E.A.  D.O.J. I.R.S. to name a few agencies.,  Then again in 2007 "quite a coincidence"  The DEA, riding shotgun with the US Attorney’s Office dist of California, the IRS - Criminal Investigation, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department, the Corona Police Department and the LAPD .  All of these individuals were indicted on federal criminal charges alleging that they conspired to distribute and distributed large quantities of marijuana, including to minors, for significant profits. Also indicted were Charles Lynch owner of central coast compassionate caregivers in Morro Bay,Larry kristich and James Carberry for operating a chain of dispenseries , Robert Naulls healing nations  collective in corona, California  medical doctor Armand Tollett who wrote marijuana recommendations with no medical examinations. Talk about loose end's these men are passionate about their cause but extremely careless in the way they operated, as for the rest of us, let's never forget the other player's after all, it's a team effort or is it ? 



Thu, 07/21/2011 - 2:44am Permalink

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