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San Francisco – Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have signed a letter requesting leniency for three medical marijuana patients appearing in federal court tomorrow for an unprecedented third day of sentencing hearings. The Supervisors ask Judge William Alsup to take into consideration the city’s “resolution declaring San Francisco a sanctuary for medical cannabis use, cultivation, and distribution,” which urges “the San Francisco Police Department not to assist in the arrest of any patients, physicians, dispensaries, and caregivers.” Since the three were raided and released by SFPD just two weeks before federal indictments were handed down, SFPD’s involvement in the case has been at issue.
The three defendants -- Hollywood actor Kevin Gage and co-defendants Stephanie Landa and Tom Kikuchi -- had met with San Francisco Police officials to discuss city guidelines for growing cannabis legally, before they set up their warehouse operation. But because they were charged under federal not state law, the three were advised that they would not be allowed to present a defense at trial. They have pled guilty to a lesser charge of maintaining a place for the “manufacture” of marijuana, a charge with a recommended maximum of 56 months.
As part of their plea agreement, they are allowed to ask for a lighter sentence based on state law but not on their contacts with police. Nonetheless, mention of the SFPD involvement was included in the sentencing report and led Judge Alsup to order an investigation and continue the hearing. After testimony from Dr. Michael Alcalay about the medical efficacy of marijuana for many conditions, Judge Alsup continued the second hearing and asked the defendants to file declarations describing how they were making sure patients were being served.
What sentence the three receive appears to hinge on Judge Alsup finding their violation of federal law to be a “lesser harm” than ignoring the suffering of others. A legal precedent cited by the judge in the Rosenthal case, “lesser harm” allows judges to impose lighter sentences than those mandated by federal sentencing guidelines.
Ed Asner, the TV celebrity and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, has also sent a letter to Judge Alsup requesting leniency based on humanitarian considerations, as has Kevin Gage’s sister, a cancer patient.
A noted actor, Kevin Gage is a medical cannabis patient and caregiver who grew marijuana for himself, his cancer-stricken sister, his brother who has MS, and others. When Kevin made the decision to take a year off to provide medical marijuana, he was living the life of a Hollywood success story, having appeared in such films as Blow, Heat, G.I. Jane, such TV shows as Nash Bridges and L.A. Law and even earning a best actor nomination for his stage work. Co-defendant Stephanie Landa is a single mother and medical marijuana patient. A car accident left Landa without use of her right arm; she is awaiting more surgery. The third defendant, Tom Kikuchi, also uses marijuana for chronic pain.
WHO: Noted actor Kevin Gage and medical marijuana co-defendants Stephanie Landa and Tom Kikuchi
WHAT: Third day of sentencing in medical marijuana case that may have violated SF Sanctuary Resolution
WHEN: Wednesday, July 30, 2003 at 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: Courtroom of Judge William Alsup, U.S. District Court, 19th floor, 450 Golden Gate, San Francisco
For more information or interviews with Gage, Landa, or Kikuchi, contact William Dolphin: (510) 919-1498.