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SAN FRANCISCO (Monday, August 9, 2004) – Bryan James Epis, 37, the first medical marijuana patient convicted in federal court after the passage of California’s Proposition 215, walked out of federal prison in Long Beach at approximately 4:00pm today, thanks to an order this morning by an appeals court in San Francisco.
He will be re-united with his 11-year-old daughter, Ashley, tomorrow morning at 10:00am on the steps of the federal courthouse in Sacramento where he was convicted.A press conference will follow.
After being greeted at the prison gates by supporters from Americans for Safe Access, Mr. Epis was driven to the Burbank airport for a flight to San Jose, where he will be met be family members and spend the night with his mother.
'Bryan's freedom is proof that we are winning,' said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA. 'No medical marijuana patient should be in prison for using the medicine their doctor recommends. Soon, none will be.'
Last Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the district court in Sacramento, where he was convicted, to expedite his release on bail. But today the panel amended that order to grant his bail motion directly, setting the stage for his immediate release from the medium security correctional facility at Terminal Island. Mr. Epis has served more than two years of a ten-year sentence for growing medical marijuana for himself and other patients.
Last month the same panel heard the appeal of his conviction and decided that Mr. Epis’s case should be reconsidered by the District Court, once the U.S. Supreme Court has acted to either uphold or overturn the decision in Raich v. Ashcroft, which established that medical marijuana patients and their caregivers are exempt from the federal prohibition. His attorney had argued that his 2002 conviction was not only unconstitutional under that decision, but based on misconduct by federal prosecutors.
The appeals court also said that if any portion of his conviction remained in effect, that he must be resentenced under new standards set by the Supreme Court decision in Blakely v. Washington, which found that juries, not judges, should determine sentencing. His attorney asked the appeals court to grant Mr. Epis his freedom pending the outcome of the Supreme Court’s action on Raich, and subsequent proceedings before the District Court in Sacramento.
Mr. Epis was arrested June 25, 1997, after Butte County sheriff's officers discovered marijuana plants growing in the basement of his home in Chico. Since his conviction, his case has been cited nationwide in news articles, columns and editorials as a prime example of the injustice of trying patients under a federal drug-trafficking law. During the high-profile medical marijuana trial of Ed Rosenthal in 2003, advocacy groups put up billboards in the San Francisco Bay Area urging “compassion not federal prison” with an image of Mr. Epis’s daughter, Ashley, holding a sign saying, “My dad is not a criminal.”
WHAT: Press conference and rally with just-released medical marijuana prisoner Bryan Epis.
WHO: Bryan James Epis, 37; his daughter, Ashley Epis, 11; attorney Brenda Grantland.
WHEN: Tuesday, August 10, 2004. 10:00am.
WHERE: Steps of the Federal building, corner of 5th and I streets, Sacramento, California.