Federal Sentencing Tuesday on Medical Marijuana Charges

Los Angeles – Arrested for growing marijuana for

0pt'>a West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary that was a model of openness and cooperation with local officials and law enforcement, a Ventura County couple will be sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Judy Osburn, 50, one of the directors of the center, and her husband, Lynn, a 54-year-old Vietnam veteran, have pleaded guilty to charges of “Maintaining a Place for the Manufacture of Marijuana,” but will be allowed to argue for a substantial reduction of sentence from guidelines calling for up to 37 months in prison. The unusual plea agreement – which allows the Osburns to both take full legal responsibility for their work on behalf of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center (LACRC) and yet still appeal their convictions – includes a recommendation from federal prosecutors that they remain free on bail while awaiting that appeal. The case is No. CR-02-939-AHM.

While U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz had ruled that the Osburns would be unable to tell a jury that they were growing marijuana for the sick and dying, or present any witnesses to testify about their cooperation with local officials and 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.

 “The Osburns should receive no harsher a sentence than Scott Imler and the other officers of LACRC,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. “Judge Matz recognized that probation was appropriate for those distributing to patients and should do the same for the people providing the medicine.”

At the time of the DEA raid that closed it in November 2001, the LACRC was serving 960 patients, of which 80% were HIVV/AIDS sufferers; the rest battled cancer, glaucoma, and other serious illnesses. LACRC operated with the support of local law enforcement and worked so closely with the City of West Hollywood that the city had helped buy them a building, and a city councilman served as LACRC’s attorney. The Center had even applied to the DEA in 1999 for a license to “manufacture marijuana for medical research” and taken DEA investigators on a guided tour of the facility. That application was cited by the DEA as the basis for its raid.

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, Judy was held for one month and Lynn for five months after federal agents raided their remote Ventura County ranch and arrested them on August 13, 2002. At the time of their arrest, the Osburns were growing only a small garden for their personal use, an activity that a federal appeals court has found to be excluded from the federal prohibition.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Raich v. Ashcroft that so long as patients obtain their marijuana without buying it or crossing state borders and use it medicinally in compliance with state law, the federal government cannot legally interfere with either them or their caregivers. The Raich case was the first instance of a court finding an aspect of the federal ban on marijuana to be unconstitutional and has begun to affect federal cases at trial, sentencing and appeal.

WHAT:      Sentencing on federal marijuana cultivation charges for Los Angeles patient/caregivers.

WHEN:      Tuesday, April 13th. Sentencing at 3:00; press availability at 2:00 in front of the courthouse.

WHERE:   Courtroom of the Hon. Judge A Howard Matz, U.S. District Court, 312 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles

WHO:        Medical marijuana patients and caregivers Lynn and Judy Osburn.

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For more information, contact Diana Buckhantz: (323) 934-0443. A national coalition of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana.