Widely supported former dispensary operator appeals conviction to 9th Circuit amidst ongoing federal crackdown
SAN FRANCISCO -- Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed an amicus 'friend of the court' brief yesterday in a federal appeal brought by California dispensary operator Charlie C. Lynch. Lynch's case drew a lot of attention during his 2008 trial and June 2009 sentencing under an Obama Justice Department. Though Lynch was supported by local officials and the Chamber of Commerce in Morro Bay, where his state-compliant dispensary Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers (CCCC) was located, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided and shut down CCCC in 2007 anyway, much like the DEA is doing today. A hearing in the Lynch appeal is expected this winter.
"We feel strongly that the federal government is abusing its prosecutorial discretion on medical marijuana cases like Lynch's," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the brief in support of Lynch. "These types of prosecutions against medical marijuana providers continue unabated under the Obama Administration based on more than 70 such indictments since the president took office," Elford continued. "We must stem the tide of federal prosecutions and instead defer to state courts to deliberate violations of state law." Though the Obama Administration sought a 5-year sentence for Lynch, federal District Judge George H. Wu considered Obama's declarations of tolerance toward medical marijuana and in 2009 sentenced Lynch to a year and a day.
Lynch's appeal comes as the Obama Administration is spending significant resources to shut down state-compliant medical marijuana dispensaries. Despite declarations to the contrary, the Obama Administration has engaged in a full-frontal attack in medical marijuana states. His U.S. Attorneys have threatened hundreds of property owners with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue to rent to facilities permitted to operate under state law. Local and state officials have been similarly threatened against adopting laws that would permit such facilities. Under the specter of federal action, hundreds of state-compliant dispensaries have been shut down over the past year.
Although President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder publicly contend that the Justice Department is only targeting facilities violating state law, evidence clearly indicates otherwise. As an example, Attorney General Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee that his Justice Department only undertakes enforcement actions against medical marijuana organizations operating "out of conformity with state law." Yet, four days later, on June 11, 2012, the DEA raided another widely supported, fully-permitted Sacramento dispensary, El Camino Wellness.
"Attorney General Holder and President Obama must be held accountable for their aggressive over-reaction in medical marijuana states," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "They're either ill-advised about what the Justice Department and other other federal agencies are doing in medical marijuana states, or they're lying to American public."
This month, The Open Neurology Journal published a study by one of the leading medical marijuana researchers in the country, Dr. Igor Grant, explaining that the federal placement of marijuana in Schedule I -- as a dangerous drug with no medical value -- was "not accurate" and "untenable." Dr. Grant and his colleagues at the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) have conducted most of the country's research on the therapeutic value of smoked or vaporized marijuana, and what they've found has consistently contradicted the federal government's position.
ASA has also filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration to reclassify medical marijuana, which is pending before the D.C. Circuit and will likely be heard this fall. ASA is challenging the DEA's 2011 denial of a 9-year-old petition to reschedule marijuana and the federal position that marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” has a “high potential for abuse.”
ASA 'friend of the court' brief in support of Charlie C. Lynch: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.
Medical marijuana study in The Open Neurology Journal: http://www.benthamscience.com/