Troubling Trend of $1 Million Bails in Medical Marijuana Cases

June 14, 2010 | Kris Hermes
A troubling trend of excessive bails in medical marijuana cases has begun to occur over the past month. The operators of a long-standing Santa Barbara dispensary, currently held on $1 million bail each, are the latest victims of this unprovoked attack on medical marijuana providers. On Friday, the Santa Barbara Police Department and Sheriff’s Department raided HortiPharm, a medical marijuana dispensary operated by Joshua and Dayli Braun. Police also raided a restaurant owned by Dayli Braun, and several other locations, seizing large amounts of medical marijuana and growing equipment, and arresting a total of 7 people. According to reports received today by Americans for Safe Access, the District Attorney has issued a warrant for HortiPharm’s bookkeeper and also intends to hold him on $1 million bail. Less than three weeks ago, on May 26th, a San Fernando Valley dispensary operator was held on $1 million bail after Sheriffs from Los Angeles and Ventura raided two of his distribution facilities and Ventura County home. Needless to say, holding people on $1 million bail is rare and typically reserved for people accused of seriously violent acts, not for those simply providing medicine to patients. In theory, we are supposed to be protected from unreasonable bail under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Arguably, the excessive bails we are seeing in recent medical marijuana cases are a violation of those rights. The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office claims that HortiPharm violated the terms of the Compassionate Use Act, but has failed to provide any evidence. And, do such claims even justify holding people on million dollar bails? Two recent acquittals of dispensary operators by jury trial in San Diego have shown that criminal prosecution may not be the best way to address the issue of medical marijuana distribution. Local officials in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura and elsewhere would do better to approach alleged local or state law violations with civil, not criminal, actions. Keeping people needlessly locked up using excessive bail is not the right approach for a public health issue like medical marijuana.
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