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Federal Medical Marijuana "Truth in Trials Act" Reintroduced [FEATURE]

US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) Tuesday introduced House Resolution 6134, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants in federal criminal prosecutions the ability to use medical marijuana evidence at trial. The bipartisan legislation has 18 cosponsors so far, including Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX).
Reps. Sam Farr and Barbara Lee, with Ashley Epis, daughter of medical marijuana prison Bryan Epis, 2003 (
This is not the first time around for the act -- a version was first introduced in 2003 and it has been introduced repeatedly since then -- but this time it comes as federal crackdowns in states like California, Colorado, and Montana are creating an increase in federal drug prosecutions against medical marijuana providers. Since the crackdowns began, at least 70 people who were medical marijuana patients or providers have been indicted on federal drug charges.

Currently in federal criminal cases, medical marijuana providers are not allowed to present evidence that they were operating under state medical marijuana laws. Federal prosecutors can exclude all evidence of medical use or state law compliance in federal trials, virtually guaranteeing the convictions of medical marijuana patients and providers.

"The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial," said Congressman Farr. "My bill would restore due process rights to law-abiding citizens acting within the parameters of state and local laws. Juries should hear the entire story of a patient's medical marijuana use before choosing to convict, not the heavily edited version they currently hear."

Under the bill, people facing federal prosecution could "introduce evidence demonstrating that the marijuana-related activities for which the person stands accused were performed in compliance with state law regarding the medical use of marijuana."

The bill would also create an affirmative defense under federal law. "It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution or proceeding under any federal law for marijuana-related activities, which the proponent must establish by a preponderance of the evidence, that those activities comply with state law regarding the medical use of marijuana," the bill says.

And the bill would make it harder for the federal government to seize and destroy medical marijuana. "No plant may be seized under any federal law otherwise permitting such seizure if the plant is being grown or stored pursuant to a recommendation by a physician or an order of a state or municipal agency in accordance with state law regarding the medical use of marijuana," the bill says.

"The federal government should be leaving enforcement issues up to the local and state officials who designed the medical marijuana laws in the first place," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group and strong supporters of the legislation introduced today. "But, as long as the Justice Department is going to arrest and prosecute people in medical marijuana states, defendants ought to have a right to a fair trial. The 'Truth in Trials' Act will restore the balance of justice and bring fundamental fairness to federal medical marijuana trials."

Most federal medical marijuana cases result in plea bargains due to the denial of a defense at trial. But some defendants still choose to fight the charges -- and they lose. That was the case with Morro Bay, California, dispensary operator Charles Lynch, who was convicted and sentenced in 2008 after being unable to cite his compliance with state law.

Lynch is out on bail pending his appeal, which is currently before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. He's doing better than Chico medical marijuana provider Bryan Epis, who is currently sitting in federal prison working on a 10-year sentence after fighting and losing his case and his appeals.

The bill could help -- not only with the immediate issue of medical marijuana legal defenses in federal court, but also in the broader ambit of marijuana law reform, advocates said.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction, even if it isn't as far-reaching as some of the other bills," said Marijuana Policy Project communications director Morgan Fox, alluding to the four other marijuana-related bills introduced in Congress this session. "If the administration is going to continue cracking down they way they have been, it would be nice to have an affirmative defense."

"This is the fifth marijuana bill this session," noted Drug Policy Alliance national affairs director Bill Piper. "That's a sign of momentum. It used to be a struggle to get one introduced, and now we have five and could see even more. When you look at issues that are moving, you see a lot of competing bills. This is a good sign," he said.

Piper held out little hope of any forward progress on the bill this year. "It's unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled House, but you never know about next year," Piper said.

But while the conventional wisdom is that marijuana reform legislation is unlikely to move in the House, Fox isn't so sure.

"The needle seems to be swinging, and it's possible House conservatives might try to use this in a symbolic way to go against the administration in an election period without having to significantly change their policies," he said, noting the low number of federal prosecutions it would actually effect. "It would be significant for the people getting arrested, of course, but that number is fairly small."

Allowing medical marijuana patients and providers to mount evidence that they are complying with state medical marijuana laws is the right thing to do, said Piper.

"It's just common sense to allow patients to tell juries the truth," Piper said. "It's not asking for much, just for defendants to be able to tell the truth."

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Thinking Clearly's picture

Voters want this passed

There is no defense in Federal court for law abiding citizens in legal States. None.

This Bill would provide the "justice" that is missing in the Department of Justice.

Now we'll get to see the real prohib snarl behind the fake

smile. The prohib legislators will have to twist themselves into the tightest, densest pretzels imaginable to rationalize opposing a bill that allows for the hoi polloi to defend themselves against the Fed 'Justice' Juggernaut.

Now we'll see who our real allies are...

DemoKrit's picture; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: rgb(182, 171, 142); line-height: 1.4em; font: normal normal normal 13px/1.5 Helvetica, Arial, 'Liberation Sans', FreeSans, sans-serif; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; background-repeat: repeat no-repeat; ">

I am in a state of shock. Is it really possible that in the USA, you are not allowed to judge a case where all of the available evidence is heard? It's an outrage worthy of any dictatorship. Whether American citizens are in favour of cannabis or not, this is something every decent person should fight. This isn't justice. It isn't even close. It's a disgrace! 

 I'm sure we all agree that


I'm sure we all agree that smoking tobacco should not be encouraged. Yet we do not threaten tobacco users with arrest and imprisonment. Maybe you believe that it's immoral to use a certain drug. If so, would you care to explain to us why you think that alcohol be exempted from your personal moral condemnation. And even then, you still need to explain why you think it should be a crime to imbibe certain plants and not others.

law enforcement and rehabilitation are mutually exclusive. Would alcoholics seek help for their illness if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise, would putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars, and saddling them with criminal records, ever prove cost-effective?

Prohibition guarantees to criminals the power to threaten communities, and even whole states.

Ending drug prohibition won't be the complete answer to all our drug problems, just as the end of alcohol prohibition didn't end all the problems associated with alcohol. But it will surely ameliorate the crime and violence on our streets. And lessen the huge burden on our judicial system. Or at least shrink the immense incentives for corruption in public office. 

Know thy enemy

Thanks to Rep. Farr for bringing this unbelievable "justice" situation to everyone's attention.  I. @Malc-- glad you mentioned tobacco (the elephant in the room).  The intricate foolery of an anti-pro-med-cannabis-testimony law goes to show how absurd the enemies of cannabis will behave, but that is not more absurd than the 6,000,000-deaths/year hot burning monoxide $igarette drug-administration format which exists today-- surprise-- almost entirely because of TRILLIONS of $$ spent over the decades to advertise how "normal" it was in order to make sure over 90% of all tobacco users were and are hooked on 700-mg overdoses.  Only HUGE MONEY-- including now the SuperPACKs operating since the $igarets United case-- has kept that puffsuckery going.  And doubtless Rep. Farr knows that $igaret PAC(k) money-- twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats-- has been used to buy any and every possible jarryfangled law against cannabis or cannabis users. II. You also mentioned alcohol-- something served up by "Publicans", Red or other-- why do laws scripted to punish cannabis users coexist with a legal "right" for stores to sell 24-OUNCE NONRESEALABLE CANS of high-percent beer (or "MALT LIQUOR")?-- sending the message to unwary kids and addicts alike that a billion dollar corporation somewhere expects you to drink that all up IN A FEW HOURS after opening, otherwise I guess suffer the shame of having wasted your money since "everyone" agrees beer is no good after it has gone "flat" .III. I wanted to mention that last 'holic "legal" example because it ties in with how the "image" of cannabis use has been manipulated.  Safe to say that a good share of the money that ceaselessly flowed into Hollywood to encourage moviemakers to include scenes of $igarette smoking was allocated to making sure that in any movie in which cannabis use was depicted, the cannabis was rolled in $igarette papers, referred to as "joint" by actors, etc. because that is just one of the helpful ways that children interested enough in cannabis to watch a movie about it can be indoctrinated in the direction of $igarette smoking.  Just like you're not a man if you can't handle 24 ounces of beer, nobody but a wee nerdling would tolerate a 25-mg. single toke when you can show off by puffing heroicly on a 500-mg monoxide monster.  IV. Last time I looked, the Wikipedia article, "Joint", had a photo of an "Americone", proudly boasting on the packaging that it has "ONE FULL GRAM INSIDE".  "SPAM" like that is generally against Wikipedia rules-- but one particular editor (see the article's "History" page) has a virtual dictatorship over cannabis-related articles and bitterly fights off any effort to correct their pro-hot-burning-overdose bias.  Thanks to the same editor, the article "Cannabis smoking" has a big picture of a man with a joint in his mouth at the top.   The editor I referred to states on his User Page that he is a medical cannabis user, and in the course of a debate on a discussion page claimed never to have smoked a cigarette, but this also goes to show that the $igarette corporations have infinite dumb-down money to "Persuade" legislators and Wikipedia editors to do their bidding. 


Here We Go

God forbid that people speak truth in court . Why try to defend yourself when you can just fall down onto the floor and give up ? That " Big Green Tsunami " is coming . The ballot box and the people are going to correct the plant war foolishness .

This would be a blessing

For people like myself that have been in a battle with the feds this would be a blessing. We would be able to speak the truth and let our side of the story be told instead of just a one way deal. We are forced to take a plea offer and not take a chance of getting several more years that they threaten you with. The mandatory minimums are so harsh and a great tool for them to pressure you into taking deal. If we were able to defend ourselves and use the state as defense then more people would take to trial.

I pray that some how this gets passed. To many lives are rotting in jail and to many lives have been destroyed from those who have to wait for there loved ones to get home. WHERE THEY BELONG.

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