Medical Marijuana Patient’s Federal Appeal Today

SAN FRANCISCO – A Chico man will be before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco this morning, arguing that his 2002 conviction for conspiring to grow medical marijuana was not only unconstitutional but based on misconduct by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento. Bryan James Epis, 37, was the first person associated with a California medical marijuana dispensary to be tried under federal law. He is currently serving a mandatory ten-year sentence in federal prison. 

Mr. Epis’s family, attorney and other patient-advocates will be available to speak to the press following the hearing. Mr. Epis’s appellate attorney, Brenda Grantland of Mill Valley, will argue that the Court of Appeals December 2003 decision in the case of Raich v. Ashcroft, which found certain prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and caregivers to be unconstitutional, should also apply in this case. She will also argue that prosecutors only obtained conviction on the most serious charge, conspiracy to grow more than a thousand plants, by misrepresenting spreadsheets found on Mr. Epis’s home computer. 

Prosecutors contended at trial that Mr. Epis was projecting income of millions of dollars from his marijuana growing; his attorney will be showing that the documents were unrelated to what he was being tried for, and that the prosecution knew it but used it anyway. 

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 medical marijuana patients and caregivers 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 9-year-old daughter, Ashley, holding a sign saying, “My dad is not a criminal.” 

WHO: Brenda Grantland appearing on behalf of Bryan James Epis, medical marijuana patient and caregiver, before Judges Donald P. Lay (of the 8th Circuit), Michael Daly Hawkins and Jay S. Bybee. 

WHAT: Constitutional and procedural challenges to Bryan Epis’ federal conviction and 10-year sentence (Case No. 02-10523); Press conference following with his daughter, mother, Barbara Epis of Los Altos, Attorney Brenda Grantland, Angel Raich and others. 

WHEN: Wednesday, June 16, 2004, 9:00am (fifth on the morning docket); press conference to follow at approximately noon on the front steps of the courthouse. 

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Courtroom 3, Third Floor, 95 Seventh St (at Mission), San Francisco, California. 

For interviews or more information, contact William Dolphin at (510) 919-1498. A national coalition of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana.