Feds jail elderly medical cannabis caregiver

January 04, 2007

Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal

SAN FRANCISCO - An elderly woman began a 41-month jail sentence in federal prison yesterday after turning herself in to federal authorities.

Stephanie Landa, 60 and a mother, began her sentence at noon following an 11:00 a.m press conference outside the San Francisco federal building.

In July, 2003, on advice of counsel, Landa plead guilty to a charge of 'maintaining a place for the manufacturing of marijuana' and was subsequently sentenced by Federal Judge William Alsup to 41-months in federal prison.

Landa appealed the decision and was released on her own recognizance pending a ruling from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court, but was remanded back into custody last month by Alsup to begin her sentence yesterday.

Organized by advocacy groups and activists and attended by several local elected officials including Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Chris Daly, the mid-morning press conference was held to condemn the federal government's continued persecution of medical cannabis patients and caregivers, and to bring attention to a widely held belief that a "rogue" SFPD narcotics inspector is involved in assisting federal authorities in the identification and prosecution of caregivers, in direct contravention of the City of San Francisco's declared sanctuary status.

In a Patient Advocacy Network press release, Axis of Love Executive Director Shona Gochenaur says, "Lt. Martin Halloran has an established pattern and practice of harassment of qualified patients in San Francisco which is in direct conflict with out city's sanctuary status."

The press release states Halloran 'conducted the raid on the patient garden in 2002, later cooperating with feds arguing his status with the DEA required him to do so.'

"It is ridiculous that in the City of San Francisco we should have to tolerate rogue cops persecuting the medical cannabis community to get promoted," stated Julian Davis of the San Francisco People's Organization.

Police Commissioner David Campos, who attended the press conference to express his dismay at San Francisco authorities for expending city resources to incarcerate a 60-year old medical cannabis patient, called the action "shameful".

"As a police commissioner, I will do everything within my power to make sure that the police department has no role going forward in the federal government's failed drug enforcement policy," Campos said.

Dale Gieringer Ph.D., spokesperson for CaNorml, an organization dedicated to the reform of marijuana laws, said California has 14 times as many prisoners incarcerated for marijuana related offences today than 20 years ago.

"What is shameful is we have people going to prison because of medical marijuana after California voters voted to legalize medical marijuana," Gieringer said.

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly, who presides over a district with a disproportionate number of patients living with HIV/AIDS, said of Landa's incarceration, "The raindrops here this morning are the tears of injustice."

"The federal government is using its resources to lock up someone who is non-violent but they can't find the resources to house people who are homeless. They can't find the resources to feed those who are hungry. They can't find the resources to provide health care to those who are sick, but they can find the resources to lock someone up who is helping people and is coming from a place of compassion.

"That is the definition of injustice."

For his part, Halloran told Fog City Journal, "I am just doing my job."

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