Oroville Medical Marijuana Plaintiff Says She'll Keep

June 06, 2005

Terry Vau Dell , Chico Enterprise Record

Though Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding federal arrests of medical marijuana patients was 'crushing,' an Oroville woman who figured prominently in the case says it won't deter her from growing medical pot at her home.

'I've called my bail bondsman just in case,' said Diane Monson.

Monson, 48, was one of two women who sued the U.S. government after their medical marijuana crops were uprooted by federal marshals in separate raids.

Local authorities refused to take part in the 2002 bust at Monson's rural Wyandotte ranch because she was complying with Butte County's six-plant limit.

In suing Attorney General John Ashcroft over the seizure by federal agents of small amounts of marijuana prescribed by their doctors, Monson and Angel Raich, a 39-year-old Oakland cancer patient, asked for a court order permitting them to smoke, grow or obtain pot without fear of federal prosecution in states - such as California - that have passed medical marijuana laws.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey wrote a 'friend of the court' brief on Monson's behalf prior to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco upholding the pair's civil suit in December 2003.

The Bush Administration appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Monday sided with the government in a 6-3 ruling declaring that cultivation and use of marijuana ran afoul of federal drug laws, even in states where medical marijuana is allowed.

Monson said she had not yet seen the written decision and thus doesn't know what impact it will have on her.

She said her attorneys have indicated the ruling should not materially affect medical marijuana statutes in ten states including California, but it could embolden federal agents to make more such arrests.

'I'm very disappointed ... It's one more peace of mind that has been taken from me,' the she said of the high court ruling.

Monson said she 'particularly decried' the fact that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sided with the court majority.

'She is a cancer patient herself and has been through treatment,' the Oroville plaintiff noted.

The court decision is 'doubly painful' to Monson, who lost her husband to cancer less than a year ago.

She said marijuana helped to control her husband's nausea and pain while he was battling the disease.

Ramsey said the high court ruling 'basically won't effect' local medical marijuana prosecutions.

'We will continue to enforce Proposition 215, which allows for cultivation and personal use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation,' said the district attorney.

'I would expect that those who are legitimately following the spirit and the letter of 215 will have little to fear from the federal government,' which Ramsey said until now has concentrated primarily on 'higher-level marijuana distribution rings and larger cultivations.'

Monson, who works as a bookkeeper for an Oroville landscaping firm and is a volunteer in a county library literacy program, said she smokes marijuana with a doctor's recommendation for chronic pain due to a degenerative spinal disease.

Butte County sheriff's deputies had flown over the couple's heavily-wooded property 14 miles east of Oroville in the summer of 2002, but couldn't tell how large their marijuana grow was.

Local and federal authorities raided the couple's rural property later that year, resulting in an unusual 'three-hour standoff,' recalls Monson.

After confirming the county's six-plant guidelines had not been exceeded, sheriff's officers started to leave, but the federal agents reportedly said they were compelled under federal drug law to seize the pot.

When contacted by his investigator, Ramsey said he initially ordered the deputies to 'take whatever means necessary' to stop the agents from uprooting the plants until he conferred with their superiors.

But after discussing the matter with the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Ramsey said he advised the local officers to leave the site and in no way assist the federal agents.

At the time, Ramsey said he warned the U.S. attorney his agents would be viewed by the public as 'jack-booted thugs ... if they took this woman's measly six plants.'

Monson, one of two women in the center of the legal firestorm, said that as federal authorities were chopping down her small grow, she recited aloud the entire text of Proposition 215, the 1996 voter-approved Compassionate Use law, which legalized medical use of pot in California.

After a story about her case was printed in a local newspaper, Monson was contacted by Raich, a disabled mother of two in Oakland who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor.

The Oroville woman said after speaking with several cancer and AIDS patients in the Bay Area the two women decided to seek legal protection through the courts against federal arrests of medical marijuana patients.

Her elation when the 9th Circuit Court upheld the women's suit in 2004 was 'crushed' by Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, she said.

'I don't understand it ... I'm shocked and disappointed,' she said.

'I grew cannabis within the county's guidelines and I will continue to do so,' she vowed.

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