Federal Court Hearings on Medical Marijuana Spark Protests in Los Angeles

October 03, 2008
Los Angeles, CA -- A federal court hearing for a re-trial in the Modesto medical marijuana dispensary case of Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Montes will occur on October 6 at 2pm at 2500 Tulare Street in Fresno, CA. If federal District Court Judge Oliver Wanger denies the defendants' motion for a new trial, a sentencing hearing will directly follow. Because of their conviction on charges of "continuing criminal enterprise," both Scarmazzo and Montes face an additional 20 years in prison for providing medical marijuana to patients, activity which is legal under state law.

Also on October 6, hundreds of people will gather at 11am in front of the Los Angeles federal courthouse at 312 N. Spring Street for a lively protest, calling for a re-trial of Charles Lynch, the medical marijuana dispensary operator from San Luis Obispo recently convicted on federal charges. A hearing for a re-trial in Lynch's case will occur on November 4, and if denied he will be sentenced on November 24. Lynch faces 20 years to life in prison for his role in providing state-sanctioned medical marijuana to patients.

All federal defendants mentioned above are seeking to be re-tried based on alleged juror misconduct during their trials.

Fresno Event
What: Hearing for a re-trial and possible sentencing of medical marijuana providers Luke Scarmazzo & Ricardo Montes
When: October 6 at 2pm
Where: Fresno federal courthouse at 2500 Tulare Street, Courtroom 3

Los Angeles Event
What: Hundreds of people protesting the conviction of Charles Lynch and demanding a new trial
When: October 6 at 11am
Where: Los Angeles federal courthouse (downtown) at 312 N. Spring Street

Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Montes were indicted after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided their medical marijuana dispensary California Healthcare Collective (CHC) on September 27, 2006. The federal raid on CHC occurred after a 15-month investigation by the DEA and the Modesto Police Department. After failing to shut down the down CHC through state court, the City of Modesto worked with the DEA to federally indict nine people associated with CHC and thereby deny them protections afforded under state law. All but Scarmazzo and Montes took plea bargains for differing sentences of up to a year in prison, whereas Scarmazzo and Montes were convicted by jury on May 15, 2008 and now face twenty years to life.

Charles Lynch ran a city-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, CA for almost a year before Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers (CCCC) was raided by the DEA and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff on March 27, 2007. After Lynch re-opened CCCC with the blessing of his landlord and Morro Bay city officials, the DEA threatened his landlord with asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution. As a result, CCCC closed its doors on May 16, 2007. It wasn't until July 17, 2007 that Lynch was indicted on multiple federal charges and ultimately convicted by jury on August 8, 2008.

Because of the June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Raich, federal defendants are prevented from using medical evidence or state law to defend themselves. As a result, all five federal trials that have occurred since then ended in convictions. Such odds have forced numerous other federal defendants to accept plea bargains with many still spending years in prison. The use of federal resources to investigate, raid, prosecute and imprison medical marijuana patients and providers has prompted several Mayors and City Councils in California to call for Congressional oversight hearings. Also, on August 25, 2008, State Attorney General Jerry Brown issued medical marijuana guidelines, recognizing the legality of dispensaries under state law and calling for an end to federal interference in California.

For more information:
Charles C. Lynch: http://www.friendsofccl.com/
Luke Scarmazzo & Ricardo Montes: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/220/1/
Fact Sheet on DEA Interference in State Law: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/dea_escalation.pdf

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