Medical Marijuana Patient Reports for Federal Prison

January 04, 2007
Another medical marijuana patient was incarcerated in federal prison today. Stephanie Landa, 60, reported to federal authorities in San Francisco to begin a 41-month sentence for her part in growing medical cannabis as part of a patient collective there. At least another 91 Californians are facing a similar fate, as medical-marijuana related arrests and prosecutions have escalated since 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal charges may be brought against patients and their caregivers and providers, despite state laws protecting them. “Putting anyone in prison for following a doctor’s advice and trying to help others is a waste of tax dollars and wrong by any measure,” said Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director. “Washington needs to put this money into helping patients, not arresting them.”

Despite requests from Congress, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) refuse to account for the money being spent on medical cannabis raids and prosecutions. Based on budget reports provided by the DEA, DOJ and local law enforcement agencies, ASA estimates that the raids and prosecutions of the past 18 months have cost taxpayers in excess of $9 million, not counting the cost of incarceration or the lost wages and productivity of those arrested.

All were arrested since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 that medical cannabis patients and their caregivers and providers can be federally prosecuted, reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that such activities were outside federal jurisdiction.

Ms. Landa’s case drew attention because San Francisco police apparently turned her and two others over to federal prosecutors. The three had met with the city’s district attorney and police officials before beginning cultivation. Ms. Landa and her co-defendants -- Tom Kikuchi, her partner, and Kevin Gage, a noted Hollywood actor, -- accepted a plea agreement in 2003 when the federal prosecutor threatened them with charges that, in Ms. Landa’s case, could have meant life in prison. Unlike California state law, federal law does not allow for a medical defense in the case of patients who use it on their doctor’s recommendation. Ms. Landa begins her sentence now because the judge allowed her to care for her and Mr. Kikuchi’s child while he served his sentence.
 
For a breakdown of the estimated DEA and other prosecution costs, see ASA’s website at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/DEA_cost.pdf

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With more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. 

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