Congressional Medical Marijuana Bill Lifts Ban on Evidence in Federal Court

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

510.251.1856 or Toll-free 888.929.4367 • info@safeaccessnow.org

Congressional Medical Marijuana Bill Lifts Ban on Evidence in Federal Court

WASHINGTON - U.S. Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) and
more than twenty original bipartisan co-sponsors introduced legislation
today that
would
allow defendants in medical marijuana cases the ability to use medical
evidence at trial, a right not currently afforded them. Because of a
June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Gonzales v. Raich, the
government has the discretion to enforce federal marijuana laws even in
medical marijuana states. The Raich ruling also allows federal
prosecutors to exclude evidence of medical use or state law compliance
in federal trials, all but guaranteeing convictions of medical
marijuana patients and providers.

Last week, the U.S. Attorney General issued guidelines to federal
prosecutors discouraging them from prosecuting cases in which patients
and providers are "in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing
state laws." Unfortunately, the
guidelines neither direct U.S. Attorneys to abandon the more than
two-dozen pending federal medical marijuana cases, nor allow defendants
the ability to use medical evidence to exonerate themselves. "This is a
common sense bill that will help stop the waste of law enforcement and
judicial resources that have been spent prosecuting individuals who are
following state law," Rep. Farr said on Tuesday. "We need strict drug
laws, but we also need to apply a little common sense to how they're
enforced. This legislation is about treating defendants in cases
involving medical marijuana fairly, plain and simple."

During the Bush Administration, more than a hundred federal cases were
prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys against medical marijuana patients and
providers who were prevented from using medical evidence at trial.
Because of an inability to properly defend themselves, scores of people
have been convicted and have received sentences of up to 20 years in
federal prison. While the Justice Department guidelines may result in
fewer federal prosecutions, they are unlikely to assist defendants
currently
being prosecuted. Underscoring the need for the "Truth in Trials" Act,
San Diego U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt, a Bush appointee, recently
responded to the guidelines by claiming she still does not have to
prove a violation of state law before prosecuting someone under federal
law.

"The 'Truth in Trials' Act will restore the balance of justice and
bring fundamental fairness to federal
medical marijuana trials," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs
Director with Americans for Safe Access, the legislation's endorser.
"This legislation complements the recent Justice Department
guidelines for federal prosecutors and is now more necessary than ever."

Routinely, federal prosecutors seek long prison
sentences in medical marijuana cases. Charles C. Lynch, a locally
licensed medical marijuana dispensary operator from Morro Bay,
California who had the support of his City Council and local Chamber of
Commerce, was prosecuted and
convicted under the Bush Administration. Although Lynch was accused by
the federal government of violating state law, he could not use
evidence of his compliance with state law at trial. "I was denied an
affirmative defense despite my strict adherence to local and state
medical marijuana laws," said Lynch. "Passage of this bill will allow
jurors to hear the entire story." Lynch is currently released on bail
pending his appeal.

The "Truth in Trials" bill has been introduced by Congress in past
sessions, but is especially relevant now that the Obama Administration
has changed federal policy on medical marijuana. At the time of
introduction, the "Truth in Trials" bill had been endorsed by a diverse
group of more than three-dozen advocacy, health, and legal
organizations, including Americans for Safe Access (ASA), American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National
Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), National Minority AIDS Council
(NMAC), and
AIDS Action Council. The "Truth in Trials" bill is likely to be
referred to the House
Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. A
companion bill has yet to be introduced in the U.S.
Senate.

Contact ASA at 510-681-6361 to coordinate
interviews with current federal defendants and those convicted without
a defense


For further information:

"Truth in Trials" legislation introduced today:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Truth_in_Trials_Act.pdf

Congressional cosponsors of "Truth in Trials" Act:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=5825

More information on the "Truth in Trials" Act:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/section.php?id=354

###

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

Share This Article

More in: