For Immediate Release: July 2nd, 2003
Medical Marijuana Sentencing To Take Unprecedented Third Day
“Lesser Harm” May Mean Leniency for Hollywood Actor, Two Others
San Francisco - Federal sentencing normally takes about two hours, but by 7:00 p.m. in the second day of hearings, the case of three medical marijuana providers was still far from complete. “I’ve never had a sentencing hearing last so long.” Judge William Alsup said Tuesday, before continuing it over to July 30th and asking the defendants to file declarations and other documents describing how they were making sure patients were being served.
Under close questioning by Judge Alsup, defense attorneys and the prosecutor argued the limits of California’s medical marijuana law and the humanitarian intentions of Kevin Gage, Stephanie Landa, and Tom Kikuchi, the first medical marijuana defendants to be sentenced since Ed Rosenthal walked out of court a free man. “The court is considering the issues carefully, and we appreciate it,” said William Panzer, attorney for Kikuchi.
Whether these three go free or not appears to hinge on Judge Alsup finding their violation of federal law to be a “lesser harm” than ignoring the suffering of others. A legal precedent cited by the judge in the Rosenthal case, “lesser harm” allows judges to impose lighter sentences than those mandated by federal sentencing guidelines. Dr. Mike Alcalay provided testimony on the marijuana’s medicinal properties and his experience with patients who are helped by it.
“The concern the court is showing for the harm patients suffer under federal law is a good sign for other medical marijuana defendants,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “Judge Breyer’s ruling in the Rosenthal sentencing could affect many other federal cases.”
Advised that, like all other federal medical marijuana defendants, they would not be allowed to present a defense at trial, Gage, Landa and Kikuchi pled guilty to maintaining a place for the “manufacture” of marijuana, a charge with a recommended maximum of 56 months. As part of their plea agreement, they are allowed to ask for a lighter sentence based on state medical marijuana law but forbidden to talk about their contacts with SFPD, with whom they had met to discuss San Francisco’s guidelines for growing cannabis legally. It was Judge Alsup’s discovery of that meeting and the subsequent raid and release by SFPD that led him to continue the first sentencing hearing and order an investigation of police actions.
Prosecutors won’t say where they got their tip, but two weeks after the aborted SFPD raid, they indicted the three on felony charges. Defense attorney’s maintain SFPD may have violated the city’s Medical Marijuana Sanctuary Resolution. “It’s absolutely improper for San Francisco law enforcement to turn people in to the federal government just because they feel the D.A., the Board of Supervisors and the voters are too lenient on marijuana, ” said District Attorney Terence Hallinan.
A noted actor, defendant Kevin Gage is a medical cannabis patient and caregiver who grew marijuana as medication for himself, his sister who suffers from cancer, and his brother who suffers from MS. When Kevin made the decision to take a year off to provide medical marijuana, he was living the life of a Hollywood success story, having appeared in such films as Blow, Heat, G.I. Jane, and many others. He had appeared on such TV shows as Nash Bridges and L.A. Law and had even earned a Los Angeles Theatre Critics best actor nomination for his stage work. Co-defendant Stephanie Landa is a single mother and a medical marijuana patient. A car accident in August of 1999 left Landa without use of her right arm; she is still awaiting more surgery. The third defendant, Tom Kikuchi, also uses medical marijuana for pain management.
For interviews with Landa, Gage, or Kikuchi, contact William Dolphin: (510) 653-1016 or 919-1498.