Oakland Rally Protests Federal Medical Marijuana Prosecutions

January 03, 2010

, KTVU Channel 2

About 50 people rallied outside the federal building in downtown Oakland Monday to protest a one-year halfway house term for a medical marijuana activist and to demand that the federal government respect states' rights regarding medical cannabis. The rally was led by Mickey Martin, also known as Michael Martin, who has been sentenced to two years of non-prison confinement for his March 26, 2008, guilty plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture and distribute a mixture containing a detectable amount of marijuana.

Martin, 35, operated an Oakland-based business originally called Tainted Inc. and later known as Compassion Medicinal Edibles that produced candy, cookies, ice cream, brownies, energy drinks and other treats containing marijuana.

Martin, who formerly lived in El Sobrante and now lives in Pleasant Hill, has finished serving one year of home confinement and on Tuesday will begin serving one year at a halfway house in San Francisco.

Federal drug agents said they found 400 marijuana plants when they raided his Oakland facility in September 2007.

Martin, who described himself as "a political prisoner," said, "I was not a criminal then nor am I one now."

He said all he was doing was "providing medicine to sick people."

Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington spoke on Martin's behalf at the rally, saying, "Mickey Martin is not a criminal. Incarcerating Mickey Martin is a crime."

Worthington said federal authorities should pardon Martin and wipe his conviction off his record.

Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan also spoke at the rally and said she's "proud and honored" that Oakland has created legal permits that allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate and bring medical marijuana off the street.

California's Compassionate Use Act, which was approved by the state's voters in 1996, allows seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor's approval, but federal laws outlawing marijuana use don't recognize the state law.

Lauren Payne of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based group that advocates for access to medical marijuana, said Martin is one of about 100 medical marijuana providers who have faced federal charges.

Payne said the Obama Administration has said it will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs and she believes it's time for federal prosecutors to honor that policy.

At the end of the rally at the federal building, protesters marched a few blocks to the nearby state building in downtown Oakland to ask the state to do more to protect patients and providers of cannabis.

Jeff Jones of the Patient ID Center in Oakland, which provides identification cards for people who use medical marijuana, said he's hopeful about the prospects of an initiative expected to be on the ballot later this year that would legalize marijuana in the state and allow counties to establish local systems to tax and regulate the plant and its products.

Jones, who spoke at Monday's rally, said initiative organizers have already gathered 650,000 signatures, well over the threshold of 434,000 signatures needed to quality it for the ballot.

Jones said organizers are waiting a while before turning in the initiative signatures because they want to place the measure on the November ballot instead of the June ballot because more people are expected to vote in November.

He said the measure is "very popular" and he expects many people will vote for the first time if it's on the ballot.

The initiative is being spearheaded by medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, which provides training for the cannabis industry.

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