Probation for Directors of West Hollywood Medical Marijuana Center

LOS ANGELES -- Despite attempts by federal prosecutors to portray three former directors of a West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary as common drug dealers, a federal judge showed leniency today and sentenced them each to one year of probation.
“I don’t know why the federal government is allocating resources to prosecuting medical marijuana cases,” said U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz, in sentencing the three officers of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center (LACRC).
Ruling that the case of Scott Imler, Jeff Yablan and Jeffrey Farrington fell “outside the heartland” of normal narcotics prosecutions, Judge Matz departed downward from sentencing guidelines that called for up to 30 months in federal prison. Each had pled guilty to charges of “maintaining a place” where marijuana was “manufactured” and distributed.
“Judge Matz has shown that common sense can prevail against the federal government’s mean-spirited attacks,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, who was present at the sentencing. “But the drug warriors are trying to stop him. John Ashcroft is reviewing decisions like this, and Congressman Mark Souder is introducing the “Drug Sentencing Reform Act,” which requires longer prison sentences for medical marijuana than child molestation.”
Attorneys for the three men successfully argued that standard sentencing should not apply, because their work caring for patients was strictly controlled, exclusively humanitarian and done with the full knowledge and cooperation of local law enforcement and elected officials. West Hollywood’s mayor and city council were among those who asked the federal judge for leniency.
The LACRC worked so closely with local officials that West Hollywood Mayor Pro-Tem John Duran served as their attorney, and the city had helped buy the building in which the center operated. The center had even applied for a federal license to “manufacture marijuana for medical research” and taken investigators on a tour of the facility. That application was cited by the DEA as the basis for its raid on October 25, 2001, which closed the LACRC.
At that time, the LACRC was serving 960 seriously ill patients, 80% of whom were HIV/AIDS sufferers. More than 450 physicians had referred patients to the LACRC for medical marijuana.
West Hollywood officials will hold a press conference in the lobby of City Hall tomorrow at 10:30am with the three men; Imler’s attorney, Ron Kaye; members of the LACRC, local clergy and activists.
WHAT:       Press Conference with West Hollywood City officials, medical marijuana defendants.
WHO:         West Hollywood Mayor Pro-Tem John Duran, City Council members; LACRC officers Scott Imler, Jeff Yablan, Jeff Farrington; attorney Ron Kaye; ; members of the LACRC; local clergy.
WHEN:       Tuesday, November 25, 2003 at 10:30 a.m.
WHERE:    West Hollywood City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 848-6400.
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