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  1. beentheredonethatagain
    Drug War POW updates; several recent releases

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    Several notable medical marijuana providers have been released from federal prisons recently. One was Kenneth ‘Kena’ Affolter, whose company, Beyond Bomb, supplied dispensaries with a wide array of medicinal edibles. A tripped burglar alarm at an Oakland warehouse in 2006 led to a raid and federal charges for Affolter and his employees. All the defendants took plea deals, but Affolter’s 70-month prison sentence was the longest by far. A naturally deep thinker, he spent much of his incarceration reading, writing and meditating. He finished serving hard time this spring.

    Former medical grower David Davidson also finished off a federal sentence this spring, ending a seven-year ordeal. Davidson was initially busted by local Tehama County authorities in 2003 but disappeared after they turned his case over to federal prosecutors. He was captured in New Mexico in 2007, after his co-defendant revealed his whereabouts in exchange for leniency in her sentence. With remarkable fortitude, Davidson waited in Sacramento County Jail for three years for his case to be resolved. When he finally accepted a plea deal for a 41-month sentence, he had already served all but a few days of that time. Davidson was released this spring and is now living happily with his girlfriend in Iowa.

    After serving time in prisons across the country, former San Diego dispensary operator John Sullivan was released to a halfway house this summer. Two of Sullivan’s dispensaries were hit during massive federal raids on San Diego’s medical marijuana facilities in 2006. Sullivan was then indicted on federal charges for cultivation and distribution, and he ultimately accepted a plea deal for five years in prison. He served that sentence in Oregon and in Florida, but is now glad to finally be back with his wife and two daughters in southern California.

    Sadly, many medical marijuana providers remain in federal prison, and still more are being sent there. This past May, former San Diego dispensary operator Joseph Nunes began serving a year-long sentence at a federal detention center. Two dispensaries associated with Nunes were raided during a crackdown in San Diego in September 2009, leaving him with a long list of federal charges.

    Nunes accepted a plea deal and was taken into custody at his sentencing hearing.
    Former dispensary operators Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Montes both turned 30 in separate prisons this summer. They’ve been locked up since May 2008, when a federal jury convicted them on charges related to the California Healthcare Collective in Modesto.

    One of those charges, a continuing criminal enterprise, carries a mandatory minimum 20 year sentence, so the judge had little choice but to sentence them to decades in prison. They filed their appeal this summer, and hope for a ruling that will change their fate and reunite them with their young children. If not, it’s likely they will spend their birthdays in prison for the next fifteen years.

    Another option is a campaign for President Obama to issue clemencies for people who qualify under his 2009 policy memo on medical marijuana.

    Medical MarijuanaofAmerica.comBy Vanessa Nelson


  1. makin
    I hate prisons...............Never had my own shower. The sheer destruction of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that prison causes is hard to fathom if you haven't lived it. The fact that the feds do this to people in states that have decriminalized their offense is in my opinion unconstitutional.

    Tenth amendment
    It is my humble opinion that the feds don't have the authority to regulate in state activities that aren't covered in the constitution which is a powers limiting document.

    Captian Tripps would probably have a better understanding if he wants to chime in on states rights over federal authority and the erosion of said state rights during prohibition.
  2. CaptainTripps
    The problem with constitutional rights is that they don't necessarily mean what they seem to say to modern readers and the Constitution basically says what the Supreme Court says it does.

    One would think by a simple reading of the Constitution that several sections would prohibit the kinds of actions the Feds are taking against Medical Marijuana Providers. How about the ninth amendment, for instance.

    "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This has been largely ignored by the Supreme Court, but was used by the plurality of Justices in cases like Roe v. Wade. The court recognized a "right to privacy", privacy rights are what legalized birth control and abortion. In Alaska, small amounts of marijuana are actually "legal", if possessed in ones home. This is under their state constitutions right to privacy. . While this may keep the Alaska State Troopers away, it will do little to deter the DEA. It is not too far of a stretch to say that a right to privacy theory should apply to the federal constitution, especially in medical matters. Unfortunately, any finding in favor of ninth amendment rights tend to be viewed as judicial activism. Meaning that they are viewed as creating new rights rather than preserving old ones. As a result the ninth amendment is seldom used for anything.

    Or how about the 8th amendment. "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Punishments that are measured in decades for a victimless crime would seem to clearly met the standard of cruel and unusual. The problem is that modern readers view this as an amendment that demands proportionality between the crime and the sentence. However the court has almost never used this kind of standard when it comes to prison sentences. They have found the death penalty to be cruel and unusual from crimes like rape, but long prison sentences have been upheld for almost anything. It should be noted that when the Supreme Court did temporarily outlaw the death penalty all together, is was not due to the penalty itself, but rather the arbitrary way it was applied. If you look at what the framers had in mind it was prohibiting things like torture. It really has to do with our modern sensibilities than what is proportional. It is legal to execute a murderer, but it would be cruel and unusual to blind them instead. Even though I am sure if given the choice most condemned murders would chose blindness. Just as most rapists would choose castration over a life sentence. Oddly, even giving the offender the choice is considered to be cruel and unusual.

    Or the first amendment . 'The First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a religion and protects each person's right to practice (or not practice) any faith without government interference. This would seem to apply to using marijuana for religious purposes, but that has not worked. Probably the closest thing would be the decision to allow certain Native Americans to use peyote for religious reasons. This may be based more on "whiteman's guilt" over the treatment of the continents original inhabitants, than on any real respect for their beliefs, but it can not be denied that this practice was going on long before Columbus "rediscovered" America. Kind of hard to call it "just an excuse to use drugs".

    Now for Makin's question. The federal government has supremacy over all laws in which it has the authority to make the law. So the question must be "where does the federal government get the power over something like medical marijuana"? The answer, at least as far the court has been concerned is in the commence clause. This is a notion that came out of Roosevelt's new deal court. In an effort to stabilize grain prices the Feds placed a quota on wheat production. A farmer decided to ignore it and grew wheat and consumed it on his farm. When he ran afoul of the law he raised the defense that he was not engaged in interstate commerce as all wheat was consumed on his farm. The court found that by raising his own wheat, he was affecting commerce indirectly by taking himself "out of the market" so to speak. This law basically gave the federal government unlimited power as the theory is everything affects interstate Commerce. This is the basis for everything from civil rights legislation to social security. If Obamacare is upheld, it will be by using the commerce clause. If it is overturned, the "American Way of Life" as we know it could come to an end. The United States could become 50 little countries, held together by a common defense treaty and a common currency.One reason so many legal scholars think it will be upheld is that so many other things that we all take for granted could potentially become "unconstitutional". I am not saying that would be a bad thing, but it would be radically different.

    This was the deal changer. Prohibition required a constitutional amendment as that it was viewed as the only legal way for the Feds to be able to outlaw alcohol. When marijuana was first outlawed on the federal level it was through the Marijuana Tax Act. This was because they felt they could use the federal power to tax, to give it legitimacy. The idea of just "outlawing" it outright would be, well unconstitutional.

    I think the real point here is not so much can the Feds do this, but rather should they do it. I think the answer is clearly no. If it is not against the actual rules of the constitution (as it has been interpreted by the courts ) it is clearly against the spirit of it. Sadly, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

    Although I think the best way to approach reform on this issue is to promote it as a states rights issue, on a constitutional level I would rather see the Court declare these marijuana laws, medical or not, to be unconstitutional as a violation of individual rights. I think for any state to prohibit the use of marijuana for medical, religious or even recreational uses should not be allowed anywhere in America. I want this country to live up to all the hype and really become a free country.

    Sadly, I think the best hope for these "political prisoners" is executive clemency. Obama would not even need to pardon them, just reduce their sentences. He could make the argument that these were not the kind of "criminals" that these laws were intended to be used against. I doubt he would take much political heat for taking 16 or 17 years off a 20 year sentence. I think it should be clear to anyone who really thinks about it, that these sentences were not to punish the offenders, but rather to terrify other providers into quitting or not starting in the first place. They made their point, time to show a little humanity.

    To quote Graham Nash. "In a land that's known as freedom, how can such a thing be fair".
  3. makin
    Kind of what the forefathers had invisioned. Oh ya I believe we get a post office out of the deal.

    Great information Captain, I have heard before how the commerce clause is used to legalize federal prohibition. Hadn't heard the wheat story though, it help put it into perscpective.

    However when a government starts denying this life, liberty and pursuit of happiness history has shown us what we as a people should do about it.

    The Suprememe/Kangaroo court should not be making decisions based on what might happen if they make the correct decision. When this becomes the status quo it's seems that WE THE PEOPLE need to get together have a little tea party and discuss what we should do next.
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