February 20, 2013

MMJ Federal Court Update on Chang/Pilotte/Maddox

February 20, 2013
Gavel marijuana miami prosecutor

chang pilotte maddox medical marijuana san diegoBy Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access

San Diego, CA – In federal court today, Judge Anello, after stating he had read defense motion gave an initial tentative ruling to deny the prejudicial prosecution motion on the basis that an individual does not have the right to claim violations under the 10th Amendment. He later reversed his ruling and allowed that two medical cannabis patients had the standing to argue their 10th amendments rights but he did not find evidence to support the argument.

The medical cannabis patient defendants Ronnie Chang and Gary Maddox, were in court with their attorneys Michael J. McCabe and Mark Bluemel to argue prejudicial prosecution and show that the federal government is engaged in commandeering San Diego’s local law enforcement – in this case the San Diego Sherriff’s Department -  in the federal fight against medical cannabis.

Both defense attorneys argued there was clear evidence of commandeering, pointing out that the Vista, CA search warrant in the case was DEA motivated; that the California Constitution binds local officers to enforce state law and not federal law and even called attention to the Sherriff’s Office efforts to allow safe access to medical cannabis by way of its own medical marijuana program, as indication federal interference is unwanted.

The two attorneys’ goal in the argument was to show that enough evidence exists of prejudicial prosecution leaving the defense entitled to discovery currently being held from them by the US Attorney’s Office – discovery which could prove financial coercion and indications of collusion between the two entities.  The defense requested Judge Anello order the US Attorney’s Office to provide the discovery.

US Attorney, Paul Starita argued that the elements in the defense motion, such as holding and withholding grants to local law enforcement entities and the DEA’s creation of the Narcotics Task Force (NTF) to cross deputize local law enforcement in apprehending federal drug offenders did not amount to commandeering.

Mark Bluemel countered in his final argument that since medical cannabis is legal, cross deputizing local officers to go against California voters is in fact commandeering.

The judge ruled in favor of the US Attorney saying while he understood the angst caused by the incongruity of federal and state law, he found no evidence of commandeering.

San Diego medical cannabis advocates and members of San Diego Americans for Safe Access attended court wearing green ribbons of support for Ronnie Chang and Gary Maddox.

On a happier note, in a phone interview with Attorney Bahar Ansari Miller, who wrote the motion argued in court today, we learned that her client and co-defendant in this case, Hal Pilotte’s charges have been dropped by the US Attorney’s Office.

Ms. Ansari Miller took Hal’s case pro bono and has been in contact with US Attorney Paul Starita to disentangle her client – who was simply a patient connected to Club One /Extreme Holistic Care (the collective in the case) – from the prosecution.  She was very pleased with the results and pointed to Paul Starita’s compassion which led to the dismissal.

With the unsuccessful defense motion, the case will now go to trial with pre-trial motions heard on May 20th, 2013, at 2:00PM and trial on June 4, 2013, at 8:30AM in Department 3A on the 3rd floor of the federal court house at 940 Front St. at Broadway, San Diego, CA, 92101.

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