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LOS ANGELES – Arrested for growing marijuana for a West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary that was a model of openness and cooperation with law enforcement, Judy Osburn, 50, one of the directors of the center, and her husband, Lynn, a 54-year-old Vietnam veteran, have reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that could leave them free on bail pending appeal or even result in no jail time.The agreement was signed the day before Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the maximum charges in all cases, and just after Americans for Safe Access launched a series of full-page ads in L.A. to educate the public on federal attacks against patients, doctors and medical marijuana providers.
The unusual agreement – which allows the Osburns to both take full legal responsibility for their work on behalf of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center and yet still appeal their convictions – includes a recommendation from federal prosecutors that they remain free on bail while awaiting that appeal. At a court hearing yet to be scheduled, the Osburns will plead guilty to what the federal government calls “Maintaining a Place for the Manufacture of Marijuana.” But they will be allowed to argue for a substantial reduction of sentence from guidelines calling for up to 37 months in prison.
While U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz had ruled that the Osburns would be unable to tell a jury why they were growing marijuana, or present any witnesses to testify about their cooperation with local law enforcement, or even mention California’s law legalizing marijuana for medical use – all that can be introduced at their sentencing hearing and taken into consideration. Expected to testify on their behalf is the Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, West Hollywood Sheriff’s Captain Lynda Castro, and West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, as well as patients and doctors.
If Judge Matz finds that there was “less harm” in the Osburns breaking the federal law than in allowing the sick and dying to suffer, he could reduce their sentences to the time already served after their arrest. Unable to post immediate bail, both were incarcerated for many weeks after federal agents raided their remote Ventura County ranch and arrested them on August 13, 2002, nearly a year after agents had raided them the first time and shut down the LACRC in actions denounced by local elected officials and law enforcement. Judge Matz could also reduce their sentence dramatically on the reasoning that the law they violated was not intended to punish those complying with state law in cooperation with local authorities.
The next in the series of education ads being run by Americans for Safe Access appears today in City Beat, Frontiers Magazine, LA Weekly and IN Magazine. A national coalition of 5,500 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the leading organization devoted to medical marijuana.