When feds bust down the doors of medical marijuana dispensaries in California and -- lo and behold -- find cannabis, operators can be liable for some serious time behind bars.
Medical pot is legal in California, you say. True, but the federal government doesn't recognize it. To them pot shop owners are just drug dealers. And it's easy to catch them holding the goods.
A new law proposed by California Congressman Sam Farr aims to change that:
The federal proposal, introduced yesterday, would allow such arrestees to use the legality of medical marijuana in their home states as a defense.
As it is, judges won't even let you mention it.
A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Gonzales v. Raich says prosecutors can block defendants' attempts to show that they were compliant with state laws at the time they were arrested.
Farr, who represents some of the Central Coast and Central Valley, says:
The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial. My bill would restore due process rights to law abiding citizens acting within the parameters of state and local laws. Juries should hear the entire story ...
The bill is called the Truth in Trials Act (HR 6134), and it attracted 18 co-sponsors.
Farr tried to get the act passed in 2003 but was unsuccessful. Back then he used the specter of Bryan Epis, who got 10 years federal time for his medical use of pot. (His daughter is pictured with Farr, below).
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Americans for Safe Access is all for the proposal. Steph Sherer, the group's executive director:
... As long as the Justice Department is going to arrest and prosecute people in medical marijuana states, defendants ought to have a right to a fair trial.
Given the extreme, polarized nature of Congress in this election year, we doubt this has a chance in hell. But it's a nice try, innit?