California’s Cannabis Candy Biz
On September 27, 2006, Kenneth “Kena” Dean Affolter of Lafayette, CA, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, agreeing to serve 70 months in prison. In the Oakland courtroom of US District Judge D. Lowell Jensen, Affolter, 39, admitted that under the business name Beyond Bomb, he produced a line of cannabis-laced goodies with wry monikers like Buddahfingers, Munchy Way, Rasta Reese’s, Pot Tarts, Toka-Cola, Puff-a-Mint Patties, Stoney Ranchers, and Hash-Oilies, with a label mimicking a Hershey’s bar.
Four of Affolter’s ex-employees and co-defendants also entered guilty pleas before Jensen. Amy Teresa Arata of Oakland and Jesse Monko of Walnut Creek both admitted to supervisory roles in Affolter’s business, each accepting 18-month prison terms. Jaime Alvarez Lopez and Elizabeth Ramirez, both natives of Mexico, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana offenses, and agreed to serve a year each in prison. Nathan Woodard, Camilo Ruiz Rodriguez, Maria Alarcon Romero, Teresa Rojas, James White and Robert Blackwell were subsequently sentenced to terms ranging from probation to one year in prison. Affolter’s operation had been busted March 16 of that year, when federal agents seized some 30,000 marijuana plants, growing equipment, $150,000 in cash, and a trove of cannabis confection in raids on three warehouses in Emeryville and one in Oakland – “marijuana candy factories,” the DEA press release said – as well as Affolter’s Lafayette home. According to the DEA’s affidavit, investigators were alerted to the operation when a $3,913 Pacific Gas & Electric bill for a month’s period covered all three locations and was billed to Affolter. Federal authorities were quick to play the child protection angle. “We don’t have any information that these products did ultimately end up in the hands of minors, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” DEA special agent Casey McEnry told the Contra Costa Times. “They look so similar to the real products it would almost suggest … that’s the way it looks.”
Affolter’s attorney Randy Daar, reached for comment today at his Pier 5 law office in San Francisco, dismisses this as a federal subterfuge. “How can you explain this selective prosecution?” he asks. “They are going after candy-makers to get at medical marijuana by other means.” Affolter’s products were going to dispensaries licensed by Oakland and other cities under California’s medical marijuana law, which allows cultivation for patient use – and he was one of many suppliers of cannabis products to the clinics.
There have since been similar cases. The owner of another Oakland cannabis confectioner surrendered October 4, 2007 to face federal charges after a week in hiding following DEA raids on his grow-room and workshop. Michael Martin, 33, of El Sobrante was one of four charged in connection with Tainted Inc. – which authorities said began as a boutique chocolate truffle business and morphed into a large-scale marijuana-candy maker that bought chocolate by the ton. Over the past two years, Tainted bought nearly four tons of chocolate from Guittard Chocolate Co. in Burlingame for more than $14,000, authorities said. “I believe truly in my heart that I have done nothing wrong,” Martin told reporters outside the Oakland Federal Building. He was joined by his wife, their young sons, and supporters who held signs reading, “DEA: Keep your hands out of the medical marijuana cookie jar.” Martin said he joined the medical marijuana movement after watching his father die painfully of prostate cancer in 2002 – refusing to use marijuana because of the federal ban. Martin said he uses medical marijuana to ease pain after a fall left him with seven screws and a steel plate in his left heel.
Tainted also produced THC-laden treats that played off the names of legal products – like Buddafinga, Mr. Greenbud, and Stoners – as well as cannabis-laced cookies, ice cream, peanut butter, granola bars and barbecue sauce. Tainted’s operations manager Jessica Sander and two couriers were also charged with conspiracy to manufacture or distribute controlled substances, and were released on bail. One was Diallo McLinn, son of prominent Berkeley political activist Osha Neumann. While arresting Sanders, an agent shot and paralyzed her Doberman Pinscher, her boyfriend charged. A DEA official told the press the incident was under investigation. The DEA once again played the child-protection card. “Kids and parents need to be careful in case kids get hold of this candy. Halloween is coming up,” said Javier Pena, the DEA’s special agent in charge for San Francisco, as he displayed products seized from the company. Authorities said Tainted supplied cannabis-laced candies to medical marijuana clubs in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, and Amsterdam. DEA special agent William Armstrong wrote in an affidavit that the company distributed ecstasy and cocaine.
“That’s unsubstantiated at this point, there’s no evidence,” says attorney Randy Daar, who is also representing the Tainted defendants. “It just allows inflammatory statements to press and prejudices people against medical marijuana by connecting it to illegal traffic in cocaine and ecstasy.” Darr dismisses the whole case as a “media stunt” – intentionally timed to exploit the specter of pot-laced candy just before Halloween. He notes that at the post-bust press conference, federal agents displayed outdated commercial-style Tainted candy wrappers, which were dropped after the negative publicity of the Affolter bust in favor of an austere silver wrapper with a red cross. “Anyone could immediately tell that it was medicine,” he says.
Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group, also accuses federal authorities of cynicism, calling the candy crackdown a “tactic by the DEA to take out medical products in California.” Hermes sees the candy busts as high-profile targets in a general federal clampdown on California medical marijuana now underway – with fundamental individual rights in the balance. “What are the goals of the federal government in taking out orgs like Beyond Bomb or Tainted?” he asks. “We at Americans for Safe Access believe it is clearly to undermine access to medical marijuana and the state’s medical marijuana laws. There have been dozens of raids just this year alone by the federal government in California, affecting thousands of patients.”
The Critics Speak
Affolter is not a simple hero for all medical marijuana advocates, however. The most sympathetic critic, Dale Gieringer, coordinator of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is harshly critical of Affolter’s use of parody knock-offs of trademarked candy brands. “That was a really bad choice of names,” Gieringer says. “When I saw those names, I knew they were asking for trouble – and they got it. The names they were using did not sound like medicine. They sounded like candy, and the DEA played on that. That was a strategic error, and playing off trademarked names made it a double blunder.” Gieringer does not give much credence to claims that the products could actually reach children – or even non-medical users. He says the medical marijuana distribution network Compassionate Caregivers “is very rigorous about making sure people are registered patients. I assume the same would be true of any place that sold Beyond Bomb or Tainted products.” Gieringer does acknowledge the possibility that products could be “passed on” from patients to non-medical users.
Reporter Henry K. Lee, who has followed Affolter’s case for the San Francisco Chronicle, reported in May 2007 that the Hershey Chocolate and Confectionary Corp. had filed a federal lawsuit accusing Affolter of unfair competition, trademark infringement, and trademark dilution – that is, undercutting the uniqueness of its products, especially Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Peppermint Patties and Jolly Rancher. The suit, filed in San Jose, seeks $100,000 in damages, Lee reported. Hershey spokesman Kirk Saville declined to comment on the suit, but Lee suggested a deal could be in the works. “We are involved in some negotiations that may lead to a resolution of any issues regarding the Hershey lawsuit,” he quoted attorney David M. Michael of the Pier 5 law team. Reached at company headquarters in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Kirk Saville reiterated to Cannabis Culture: “The company does not wish to comment.”
Susan Raffanti, the attorney who represented Camilo Ruiz Rodriguez, one of Beyond Bomb’s immigrant employees, is scathing about Affolter, accusing him of exploiting undocumented migrant labor from Mexico – and keeping them in the dark about the risks. Raffanti says, “I think the only real crime in this case was using recent immigrants, some undocumented, to do this work, and telling them that it was legal, showing them the business license, but he never explained to these non-English-speaking people that it was not legal under federal law. Certainly my client, and I think most of them, believed him. He’s smooth.” She adds, “I think most of these people should not have been prosecuted. Not knowing it was illegal is not a defense under the law, but the equities were in their favor. They made $14.00 an hour, while he made hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Raffanti is harshly critical of the federal authorities. Her client Ruiz Rodriguez got seven months – which he served, and was then deported back to Mexico. He is now living in his native Michoacán, along with Jaime Alvarez Lopez and other Beyond Bomb defendants. “They could have been not prosecuted and simply deported,” Raffanti protests. “Instead, they were imprisoned at a substantial tax-payer cost and then deported.” She cuts Affolter no slack. “I’m all in favor of medical marijuana and legal marijuana, but this guy was in it for the money, and he made a lot of bucks. He bullied my client. I don’t think he’s any kind of hero.”
Controversy over Affolter’s pecuniary status was also raised at the bail hearing where he was denied release on April 21, 2006. Wayne D. Brazil, the magistrate at the hearing, cited in his order “highly disturbing” phone calls intercepted from the Santa Rita jail, where Affolter was then being held, indicating “access to financial resources” he had failed to disclose – which he was attempting to use “to coerce individuals into serving as sureties for his release.” Assistant US Attorney Dana Wagner wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Affolter boasted over the phone that the DEA “got a lot of money, but they didn’t get it all!” Citing Affolter’s apparent access to “significant undisclosed financial resources,” Wagner urged Judge Jensen to impose a $500,000 fine. Jensen imposed a $250,000 fine, with the money seized in the raids going towards that sum. The rest remains unpaid. “My client is indigent to the best of my knowledge at this time,” says attorney Randy Darr.
“How to turn this into medicine?” asks Kena Affolter, speaking by telephone from Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution on the Southern California coast. “There is no standard of dosage. For marijuana to have maximum medicinal value there has to be research into correct dosage and efficient mediums. That’s what we were doing. Our products had full FDA-required ingredient lists, with nutritional facts and medical content down to the milligram. How much is necessary to affect blood concentration ratio, to elevate and maintain the therapeutic level? We conducted 2,200 test doses on pure extract or mixed carriers. We conducted clinical trials on 50 patients, with placebos, to test dosage, mediums and effectiveness on different ailments. All our ingredients conformed to US Pharmacopoeia standards. Alcohol for extracts – all USP-grade. The caffeine in our energy bar – all USP-grade.”
Affolter scoffs at the notion that his products were reaching children. “There was a precautionary statement on the wrapper, saying it is unlawful to pass on to non-authorized users, don’t operate heavy machinery, and so on. And it listed the amount of THC down to the milligram.” That’s a fact he’s particularly proud of. “I’d say that’s our biggest accomplishment and contribution to the industry. We’re the only ones who have been able to offer that information.”
In addition to candy, Affolter says Beyond Bomb was producing or developing cannabis granola, the obligatory brownies, five different kinds of cookies, biscotti, seasonal treats like Valentine’s chocolates and gingerbread, lolly-pops, throat lozenges, gel caps, tinctures, suppositories, breath strips, bronchial inhalers, salves, cannabis-infused water and soda pop, “and other products I’m not going to name pending a book contract. It’s the more technologically advanced ideas I’m holding out on.”
Affolter says he can’t discuss recipe formulas over the monitored phone, but explains the basics. “Hash oil allows you to put the THC back in exact quantities, like the tobacco companies do with nicotine extract.” Samples of marijuana, hash oil and finished product were sent to a lab in San Diego for analysis by gas chromatography. Affolter says the lab has requested to remain unidentified. “It’s the industry standard analytical tool,” he says. “We determined the exact quantities of fatty acids, waxes, THC, chlorophyll.” The clinical trials were conducted at doctor’s offices and dispensaries in Oakland and Los Angeles. “I’m the only person in the country who was conducting clinical trials. Most people didn’t have an idea of how much THC was in their products. We were known for the purity and consistency of dosage in our products.”
Affolter asserts he spent some $50,000 on such research over the three years he was in production, and at his peak in 2005 his products reached 50 dispensaries throughout California. “We donated more product to dispensaries and patients than all the other dispensaries combined,” he says. Working with the Compassionate Caregivers distribution network, he says Beyond Bomb sent out thousands of pieces every month. Beyond Bomb ordered bulk chocolate from Hershey’s or Ghirardelli. Sometimes he laced another company’s finished products, such as Snickers bars, which were repackaged as Stoners. His unique products used organic ingredients as much as possible – such as the peanut butter in the Rasta Reese’s and the guarana in the energy bar, dubbed TH-Chi. “We were fully vertically integrated” Affolter states, sounding every bit the visionary capitalist. “We did everything from planting our own seeds to supplying patients.”
Each of the three warehouses raided on March 16, 2006 had its own role in the operation. The space on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland had been distributing medical marijuana under Oakland license when Affolter took it over in August 2005. He was applying to renew the license, and had submitted to an Oakland Police Department background check. At the time of the bust, the space served as a testing center for start-up plants. The three Emeryville locations were the offices of Clear Soap, Affolter’s other (non-cannabis-related) firm, and two sites separated by a dividing wall – one for cannabis production, and a lab for product development that Affolter calls the “nutra-ceutical department.” Affolter says he had just opened four dispensaries in Oakland, Englewood and Van Nuys when he was raided – now all shut. He had also co-founded the California Cannabis Advisory Board in Van Nuys as a clearinghouse on information related to medical marijuana and hemp products.
“This is wonderful medicine,” Affolter says. “Marijuana must be recognized and legitimized as medicine before it can be generally legalized. Our approach was scientific, not counter-culture. There’s a lack of firms in the private sector taking this on because of the stigma of recreational drug use.” He denies claims that he got rich through his candy biz. “We spent a lot more on R&D, clinical trials and scientific testing than we ever made. All profits were reinvested up until the last year. We started to show a profit at that point, and that money was seized by the government.” He says that money was slated for reinvestment as well. “We had no expensive cars or houses.” He also sees little harm in his satirical branding. “So many people were doing it in California, and they were such obvious parodies that I didn’t think anyone would get upset.” Affolter says Tainted was already marketing satire knock-offs before he got into the game, as did Bliss, a spin-off from Tainted which opened in 2005.
Another Bay Area outfit was mimicking See’s chocolates as “TH-See’s” back as far back as 2003. “I think it’s only because my products became so popular that they got the attention,” he offers. Affolter asserts the Beyond Bomb product labels each had a contact address – although he admits the office on the label closed in early 2005, when the address was replaced with an e-mail address: [email protected]
Affolter responds to the charge that he exploited his immigrant labor. “All immigrant workers were given paperwork informing them of what they were working with and that it was illegal. They signed a disclaimer and knew exactly what they were getting into. But you’ll say whatever authorities want when you’re facing 20 years.” Affolter claims he offered legal assistance to get his undocumented workers residency status. Some got bonuses of $5,000 in lieu of legal assistance, if they chose to seek their own counsel, he says. He also says he provided healthcare assistance, and emphasizes that the pay scale was the same for immigrants and natives. “Some had worked at Compassionate Caregivers before and had been in the industry as long as me,” he says. “Some sat at the door doing security, so they knew it was illegal.” He also says the two pistols found at his home were harmless. “One was a World War II-era handgun, disassembled in the garage. The other was a 0.357 revolver I was holding for a friend who had moved into a teepee.” No gun charges were brought.
A native of Lafayette, Affolter once worked in construction at the management level, but says he “didn’t like corporate America so I set off on other interests.” He studied at Emeryville’s National Holistic Institute, and in 1995 became a state-licensed herbalist. He produced a line of essential oils and other non-cannabis products such as Clear Soap Inc. before incorporating Awaken Industries in 2004, which operated under the DBA Beyond Bomb Medicinal Farm. Affolter considers himself as a medicinal user – or now, ex-user. “I have a hyperkinetic brain,” he says. “If I drink coffee, I go to sleep. It makes it hard to focus. I’ve been using for over a decade.” And how does he manage without it in Lompoc FCI? “I don’t get as much done as I used to,” Affolter replies, only a little wistfully. “But I have a lot less to do.”
Medical Marijuana Advocates Speak
It is clear that for many advocates of medicinal cannabis, Kena Affolter is a hero. Ed Rosenthal is a cultivation expert and legendary figure in the medical marijuana movement, and has been waging his own struggle with federal efforts to shut him down and lock him up. His case has been closely watched as a test of federal power over state and local drug policy. Officially licensed to grow medical marijuana for the city of Oakland, he was nonetheless arrested by federal agents on February 12, 2002. In a dramatic setback for the federal government, he was sentenced in June 2003 to one day in prison (already served during his time in jail following the bust) and a $1,000 fine. He’d faced a maximum of 100 years in prison and fines up to $4.5 million.
Rosenthal nonetheless retained his status as a convicted felon until April 2006, when the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction and remanded the case back to the US District Court. Federal prosecutors promptly filed a superseding indictment that not only brought back marijuana cultivation charges but also added tax evasion and money laundering counts. But the feds’ new case hit another reversal in early 2007, when defense attorney Joseph Elford of ASA filed a motion claiming vindictive prosecution – citing statements by Assistant US Attorney George Bevan, Jr., saying that the financial charges had been added to the indictment as a result of his displeasure with comments Rosenthal had made to the press. US District Judge Charles Breyer dismissed the tax evasion and money laundering counts – but prohibited defense attorneys from arguing before the jury that the city of Oakland and California law had sanctioned Rosenthal’s work. On May 31, 2007, Rosenthal was convicted again on three counts of cultivation and conspiracy, but he did not receive any additional prison time and the case remains on appeal.
Rosenthal has little patience with claims that Affolter’s immigrant employees were in the dark about the risks they faced. “People have a head-in-the-sand attitude – they never believe they can be busted until it happens. There are rip-and-run raids happening all over the state and people act like ‘Wow, we didn’t know.’ My case was in all the papers. It was on Spanish-language television here.” He has no more patience with the feds’ child-protection angle. “That candy was not getting to kids, it was going to dispensaries. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. The feds use any propaganda they can against medical marijuana and marijuana in general. Why don’t they go after the people who make Vioxx?” While Affolter could face criminal charges for discussing his formulas, Rosenthal conjectures what process Affolter used in his chocolate products. “You take kif, marijuana oil or marijuana itself, and add it to chocolate. If you’re just using marijuana, grind it up and get it crispy in an oven at 100 degrees or so first.” Kif is the fine blonde powder from the stalked resin glands of marijuana buds, which can be separated out with a screen. Of course marijuana butter can be added to cookie dough.
The “rip-and-run” raids Rosenthal refers to are a series of DEA hits on dispensaries this year in which no one was arrested but marijuana was seized. Rosenthal perceives that a “turning point” was reached this past summer. In July 2007, the DEA sent letters to at least 30 landlords of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County warning that their property and assets could be seized. Then, on July 25, federal agents raided 10 medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles – the same day city councilors introduced a measure calling for an end to the crackdown on the dispensaries. The bust netted five arrests, and large quantities of marijuana and cash. Councilman Dennis Zine, who earlier that day wrote a letter to then-DEA administrator Karen Tandy asking the agency to stop the raids, called the federal agents “bullies.” DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen said the timing of the bust was “purely coincidental.”
Rosenthal says the medical marijuana network has been in dramatic retreat since then. “There are no dispensaries in San Diego now – there were maybe 20 earlier this year,” he says. For Rosenthal, the crackdown is political – about protecting the entrenched power of the federal Drug War apparatus. “Medical marijuana is the biggest threat they’ve ever faced because it throws their whole reason for existence into question. Is policy made by reason and science or by myth? There’s nothing rational about the policy until you look at self-interest. Then it becomes totally rational.” Meanwhile, the raids are destroying lives. “Any prosecutor, any judge involved in a marijuana case is a war criminal,” Rosenthal charges.
ASA, founded in 2002, works to educate doctors, lawyers and policy makers on medical marijuana issues and the rights of patients. The group’s Kris Hermes says cannabis candy meets a vital niche. “For some people, inhaling smoked cannabis is difficult,” he says. “For people with lung or congestion issues it might not be the best form of intake. If it goes through the digestive system, it enters the bloodstream much slower, and has an effect which is not as abrupt as smoking it. It has a different effect, just as there is a different effect from using concentrated forms of cannabis such as hash oil or kifs or tinctures, or vaporizing which heats the marijuana to vapor before it combusts. These different types of consumption provide an array of different effects and should be available to patients so they have a wide variety of healthcare choices. That’s what our healthcare system should be about – providing choices for sick people to deal with their pain and conditions.”
Hermes also dismisses the talk of kids eating the cannabis candy. “These products are, as far we know, only sold to qualified patients who must have a doctor’s recommendation. What’s going on is a PR campaign. The federal government is targeting the public heartstrings to create a veil over their obnoxious and unnecessary conduct. There’s no evidence these products were being used by children. All they have to do is prove in court that these products had marijuana and that’s illegal under federal law.” Hermes likewise sees a federal stratagem “to undermine an effective health movement.” The issue is not candy, Hermes stresses. “This is a wholesale attack on medical cannabis in California.”
Stoners’ Rights, States’ Rights…
Affolter’s March 16, 2006 arrest was the second federal raid in a week on a California medical marijuana supplier, coming days after the arrest of a Desert Hot Springs farmer who supplied a dispensary in Palm Desert, Riverside County. Analysts say the groundwork for the new crackdown was actually laid the previous summer, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the feds could prosecute patients who possess or grow marijuana in states that allow it for medical use. Two seriously ill women, Angel Raich of Oakland, suffering from a brain tumor, and Diane Monson of Oroville, with a degenerative spine disease, brought the case forward. The two had sued then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft, demanding a court order allowing them smoke, grow or obtain marijuana without fear. The June 2005 decision against them in Ashcroft v. Raich hardened federal intransigence against the Compassionate Use Act, approved by California voters under Proposition 215 in 1996.
Even in the era of President George Bush, California has moved forward with its medical marijuana policy – in the vanguard of twelve states that have legalized medicinal use since 1996. In 2004, Senate Bill 420, the Medical Marijuana Implementation Act, passed in Sacramento, establishing guidelines for cultivation by patient and caregiver collectives (up to six mature or 12 starter plants and up to a half-pound of dried cannabis per patient or designated caregiver), and instating a voluntary patient ID system, to be established by the counties. NORML’s Dale Gieringer says arrests for marijuana in California (by federal, state or local police) have held steady at 60 to 70 thousand annually for years now, with some 10% of that for medical cannabis. In some localities, like Riverside or San Bernadino, police refuse to honor medical recommendations – although the cases often get dropped in court. Even the most cooperative local governments in California have been slow to protest the federal operations on their turf. The office of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, contacted by this reporter, did not offer a comment on the Beyond Bomb and Tainted raids. US Magistrate Wayne Brazil, upon releasing the Tainted defendants on bond, responded to queries about the state law with, “Too bad. Take it to your congressman.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown have largely stayed above the fray, deferring to state and local law enforcement. On October 29, 2007, Schwarzenegger asserted to GQ magazine that marijuana is not a drug. “I didn’t take any drugs,” he told a writer. When interviewer Piers Morgan pointed out that Schwarzenegger was shown smoking a spliff in his 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, the governor responded, “That is not a drug. It’s a leaf. My drug was pumping iron, trust me.” But this audaciousness has not translated into challenging federal power on 215.
With the state’s executive largely complacent, ASA is closely following some key cases in the state courts. In Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, medical user Gary Ross is challenging his dismissal for failing a drug test by a Sacramento technology firm. ASA has filed amicus briefs on Ross’ behalf, and the case is now pending before the state Supreme Court. In another case, Garden Grove patient Felix Kha is challenging her arrest on marijuana charges by local police after a car stop. In 1996, then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed an amicus brief in support of Kha and the return of his medicine. The California Police Chiefs Association filed an amicus brief in support of the city of Garden Grove (a decision by California’s Fourth Appellate District is currently pending). In perhaps the most important case, San Diego County is challenging the legality of the state medical marijuana law, arguing that federal law pre-empts state, and asserting its right not to participate in the patient ID program. The case was actually brought after San Diego NORML threatened to sue the county for non-compliance with SB 420, and the local NORML chapter is named as a defendant. Attorney General Brown is defending the state in the case. ASA, Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union are parties to the case as “intervening defendants,” representing patients and doctors. “We believe federal law in no way pre-empts state law,” says ASA’s Hermes. “Patients must be protected.”
Dale Gieringer was a critical voice for the passage of 215. He now has misgivings over how the state’s medical marijuana industry has developed – and especially about Affolter’s image of stoner capitalism. “Large-scale operations invite DEA interference, and the more commercial they appear, the more they’re inviting trouble. I’ve been surprised by how commercial the whole scene has become – not just candy, but medical marijuana generally. Yes, commercialization pushed the envelope so far out that they’ll have a hard time completely rolling it back. But on the other hand, it has served as a lightening rod for prosecution.” Gieringer estimates that there are now some 250 dispensaries statewide – down from about 400 at the beginning of the year.
… And Patient’s Rights
Affolter is scheduled for release mid-2009. He will then go to a halfway house, and serve three and a half years probation. He says when he gets out he wants to work in health centers and eventually open his own office, offering massage, homeopathy and other therapies, with a licensed general practitioner MD on site. He says this would apply the same philosophy – if not the same substances – he brought to his work with Beyond Bomb. “Patients taking responsibility is the key to exquisite health – mentally, socially, physically. Total wellness. I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to be on the forefront of a new medicine and advance a cause for patients’ rights,” he says. “Our choices are run too much by the pharmaceutical companies that offer what they want and what the government will allow. The truth remains the same: our lives are on the line.”
Does Affolter regret his experience with Beyond Bomb? “On a federal phone, I’d like to say that I regret that I’m in a federal prison,” he says with a hint of irony. “But I’m pleased with the work I did. And I don’t regret that what I stood up for and worked towards has landed me where I am. When more people stand up for what they believe in, the truth will stand out. As long as we don’t exercise our voice, we won’t be heard – as people, as patients, as the human race.” Affolter says he felt vindicated by the outpouring of support after his bust. “I received so many letters from patients and their family members who said they received so much benefit from the products – even in the final hours of life – that I felt good about what I did. When I heard that thanks to my products people were able to die in peace – that really touched me.” He cites two specific cases – one, an AIDS case, and the other, cancer. “As people, we are allowed to have control over our bodies,” Affolter says. “The first step is to be allowed to use what works for us. Anything that comes from God’s Green Earth – we should have a right to use it if it provides us relief.”