Chico man's pot case on hold
July 12, 2004
Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle
The case of a Butte County man sentenced to 10 years in prison for growing marijuana that he said was for himself and other patients was put on hold by an appeals court Monday to await the U.S. Supreme Court's verdict on federal authority over locally grown medical marijuana.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered a federal judge in Sacramento to reconsider Bryan Epis' case after the Supreme Court decides whether the federal ban on marijuana applies to pot that is grown in the state and supplied without charge to patients under California law.
The Supreme Court ruling, which involves two other patients from Northern California, is due by June.
Epis, 37, could get a new trial if the high court decides that Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce does not apply to drugs grown and distributed noncommercially within a state in compliance with state law.
His lawyer, Brenda Grantland, said Monday that she would renew her request to free him on bail during his appeal and noted that Epis has other challenges to his conviction that the appeals court has not yet addressed.
Epis of Chico was convicted by a jury in 2002 of conspiring to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants.
Epis has a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana for chronic back and neck pain, and said the 458 plants that officers seized from his basement in 1997 were for him and four other patients, who shared the expenses.
Federal prosecutors maintained that he ran a commercial operation.
Epis' case is the first federal marijuana prosecution to reach the appeals court since California voters approved Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized marijuana for medical use under state law.