Amidst the bitter struggle between law enforcement, its prohibitionist allies, and friends of cannabis freedom in California, significant victories are giving hope that the state’s medical pot law, passed three years ago, may finally be enacted.
Cops return pot
In Northern California this April, former marijuana defendant Chris Brown walked in to the sheriff’s office in Ukiah and walked out with half a pound of marijuana. The pot had been seized from him during a 1997 raid on his home in Willits, a tiny burg located about two hours north of San Francisco.
Brown and his partner Dorlissa Perrine had been charged with cultivation and possession for sale, but those charges were dropped when the pair produced doctors’ notes certifying their use of pot for medical purposes. The 37-year-old Brown has been fighting with police and prosecutors ever since the raid, steadfastly proclaiming that Prop 215 allows him to use marijuana to alleviate chronic pain arising from injuries he received in a motorcycle accident, and that seizure of his medicine amounts to theft.
Brown’s opponents had argued all the way to the state Supreme Court that giving back the injured man’s medicine would cause police officers to become “drug pushers,” because they would be returning to him a “contraband” substance not recognized by federal law as bona fide medicine.
The Supreme Court rejected the cops’ contention, and Brown says this opens the door to the return of medicine in dozens of California medical pot cases.
This victory was preceded by a similar give-back that occurred last year in Orange County, when a municipal court judge ordered police to give defendant Eugene Victor his medical marijuana, which had been confiscated by Huntington Beach police. Victor uses marijuana as a treatment for asthma.
Partial court victory
In Placer County, where hard-core prohibitionist government officials make mockery of Prop 215 by arresting medical pot users like Steve Kubby, a jury trial of two medical marijuana defendants ended with a partial victory for dentist Michael Baldwin and his wife Georgia.
The couple were arrested last September, and charged with cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, after police seized 146 plants from their home.
Baldwin told Cannabis Culture in March that local officials deliberately demonized him and his wife after the arrest, destroying his high-tech dentistry practice.
“I had one of the most modern and popular dentistry offices in the country,” Baldwin said. “But after my arrest, the prosecutors immediately started saying I was a drug dealer. I lost most of my patients, and some of my staff quit, either because they thought I was a drug dealer, or because they couldn’t handle the notoriety of working in my office. The government deliberately and maliciously bankrupted me.”
Baldwin and his wife had medical recommendations for marijuana, but prosecutors took the case to trial anyway. Judge James Garbolino, after several days of privately studying Prop 215, dismissed the cultivation charge, saying the new law allowed people with medical recommendations to cultivate marijuana.
But the sales charge, based on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence and the biased and inaccurate testimony of so-called government experts, was allowed to proceed. The only “evidence” of sales were a digital scale, which the Baldwin’s attorneys proved was used for weighing materials in the dentistry office, and turkey basting bags.
Jurors deliberated for four days on the sales charge before telling Judge Garbolino that they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a decision; the sales charge portion of the case ended in a hung jury.
After the verdict, some jurors complained that “all of the expert witnesses were biased,” and that “146 plants was too many.” Others said that since Prop 215 doesn’t set a limit on the number of plants, there was no honest way to find the Baldwins guilty of anything.
Michael Baldwin, who’d said he’d settle for nothing less than full acquittal on both counts, reacted angrily when the hung jury was announced, and had to be led out of the courtroom by supporters after castigating jurors for not upholding the law.
The Baldwins say they intend to sue Placer County for millions of dollars, but their most immediate concern is a scheduled June 14 court date, when Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman is expected to announce whether he will retry the case.
New moon plant-in
In the meantime, Dennis Peron hosted a “new moon” planting party on his 20 acre marijuana farm in Lake County.
“The law says sick people can grow their own medicine,” Peron said, surveying hundreds of people planting seedlings in the sun. “The DEA stole our last two harvests, but we think they’ll leave sick and dying people alone this year. We invited them to come as usual, but they declined.”
According to some who attended the event, however, police were harassing people as they left Peron’s farm. In America, no matter how much the sun shines, the forces of darkness are always present to remind us that the fight for freedom is far from over.