Leader of Medical Marijuana Co-op Wins Evidentiary Hearing

WHAT:Evidentiary hearing for Dustin Costa, leader of the Merced Patients Group, before JudgeAnthony W.


WHERE:US District Court, Eastern District of California, Courtroom 2, new Courthouse now in use: 2500 Tulare Street, Fresno , 93721

WHEN:Friday, February 24, 2005 at

**Supporters of Dustin Costa will be available for comment on plaza in front of new Federal Courthouse from **

Merced activists believe the federal case of medical marijuana patient, caregiver, and activist Dustin Costa represents a dangerous turn for California's medical marijuana law, as the arrest of DC on federal charges for medical marijuana cultivation was effectively a re-arrest for what had originally been a state case. This was the third case in 2005 in which California law enforcement in the Central Valley has conspired with the DEA to deny a fair trial to a patient-caregiver who sought to operate legally in accordance with Prop. 215.


Costa’s case stems from a February 2004 raid on his farm in Winton that turned up some 900 plants, 8.8 lbs of dried marijuana, and a shotgun. After 18 months of continuances in Merced County Superior Court, Costa was taken into federal custody on August 10, 2005, five days before state charges were dropped. In a federal trial the jury will not be allowed to weigh Costa’s defense that the cannabis was all destined for medical users and dispensaries. Tom O’Connell, MD, who was seeing patients in Merced, notes, 'The arrest of Dustin Costa on a federal warrant, while he was on bail for the same charges by the state -- was a shameful injustice.  Whatever legal arguments may justify it; there's little doubt it is political punishment of an activist for his views.”     Costa, 58, is a Vietnam-era Marine Corps vet who has experience as a union organizer. Instead of retreating after being arrested, he devoted himself to building the Merced Patients Group, a medical marijuana patients cooperative. McPike, who represented Costa in County Superior Court, notes, “Dustin is a political prisoner in the war against the medical benefits of using marijuana. This should alarm all Californians about the power of the US government and why it wants to ignore laws that we as the largest populated state pass.”