Toby and David's Story
My name is Toby. In 2005, my partner David Harde, a patient and caregiver, and I were raided by local authorities in an investigation that in light of the fact that case could not successfully be prosecuted given state law was turned over to the federal government. The reason I have decided to share my story with you is because the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment is being voted on in the House of Representatives next week.
First off, I want to give a big shout out to the Federal Government that in spite of the ordeal that David and I have been through our love for each other has prevailed.
Secondly, I would like to remind the federal government of their misguided and shameful behavior towards medical marijuana users. Based on our experience, many caregivers and patients in our community are afraid and no longer feel that there is any legitimacy to medicinal marijuana. Instead they feel that it is safer to “go underground.” This is a sad and painful reality of the 21st century when so many of our freedoms are being eroded, including the freedom to benefit from the medicinal aid of marijuana.
As hurricane Katrina was devastating the Louisiana coast, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office was crafting the final stages of the “raid” on our property, deeming the marijuana garden growing on the property to be illegal based on the Supreme Courts decision of 2005. While the search warrant was for David, the sheriff decided to arrest me as well. After several hours of examination at our home, we were carted off to the County Jail and ultimately released on bail. This experience alone was surreal and unfortunately only the beginning of a series of events to follow which became increasingly devastating and emotionally grueling.
The District Attorney’s argument finally boiled down to this: David had enough valid certificates to cover the number of plants growing but because he had obtained a card allowing him to purchase medicine and or clones at a medical marijuana club in San Francisco, he had relinquished his right to be a “caregiver” and therefore was not entitled to grow plants on his own property. Clearly the county did not have a winning argument and so the sheriff and the district attorney enticed the federal government to take over the case. Before our day in court actually arrived, a preliminary hearing had been set for July, federal agents arrived at our door one morning, accompanied by none other than the El Dorado County detective who had spear-headed the original arrest 10 months earlier. Once again, we were handcuffed and carted off, this time to the Federal Court House in Sacramento; a longer trip, a larger building, a far more gruesome ordeal and suddenly the stakes were higher. If I thought we were treated poorly in our county jail, the federal government is far more experienced in fear and intimidation.
The details of this experience are overwhelming to this day. What I will share is that while we were being arraigned in front of the Magistrate, the prosecuting attorney asked that we be locked up – it was Friday afternoon before the July 4th weekend so that we would not be able to be released until Tuesday – since she considered us a “high risk for flight;” meaning that we would try to escape and leave the country, forever, I assume; and this was only the beginning of her vindictiveness. Fortunately, the Magistrate interrupted her and declared that he was releasing us. The truly pathetic part of this story is that David and I would have shown up at the Federal Court House (perhaps accompanied by an attorney) if the federal agents had simply called to say that we were being re-arrested. We are not dangerous people nor a threat to anyone and the federal government could have saved thousands of dollars since at least eight agents were sent for this “sting” operation.
Faced with the illegality of medicinal marijuana on the federal level, David and I made the difficult decision to resolve his case as quickly as possible. Fear of the unknown is powerful and emotionally unsettling and even with the knowledge that David would serve time, we chose to take a plea bargain for his case. And so the negotiations began and we waited to hear what the federal government would offer us, the ball clearly being in their court. When we finally received the probation report/recommendation, we were devastated. Years of prison time, fines that were seemingly astronomical, years of probation and what felt like an eternity until we would have our lives back.
To David’s credit and a testament to his humanity, his friends, relatives and community spoke out. People from all walks of life, teachers, principals, school superintendents, nurses, physicians, winery owners, construction workers, electricians, carpenters, mental health professionals, rabbis, business owners, a former county supervisor, community volunteers, artists and homemakers wrote letters to the judge on David’s behalf. Being a community minded individual all his life, David’s service and commitment to bettering the world beginning with his volunteering for the Peace Corps, impressed the Judge. For the first time in his career, the judge went below the minimum sentencing guideline. Still, 30 months is a long time to be away from those you love. Although David is not on close terms with people in “high” places and therefore has not had his sentence commuted, he is due to be released this February, serving only 12 of the 30 months. This experience has changed our lives, broken our hearts, mended our love and taught us to be open with our needs and know that family, friends, and community will respond with abundance and love.
David was not trying to break any laws; in fact his ideal was to make medicinal marijuana safely available for qualified patients. To put a final note of poignancy on this story, while David has been incarcerated one of the collective members for whom he was growing medicinal marijuana has passed away.
Sadly, our story is only one of dozens of cases that could have been prevented by the passage of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment. It is up to compassionate people like you to educate your representatives on this amendment.On behalf of David, myself and all the victims of the federal attack on medical cannabis, I ask you to contact your representative today. We are under a time constraint so I am asking you to call your representative today.Here are two ways to contact your representative:
E-mail Your Member of Congress.
Visit ASA’s action page to send your Congressional Representative an e-mail urging him/her to support the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment.
Call Your Member of Congress.
Every single phone call counts!Call your Congressional Representative and tell them if adopted this amendment will do two things:
- Conserve taxpayers’ money by blocking funding for DEA raids in legal medical cannabis states against state certified medical cannabis patients and
- Protect legal medical cannabis patients from having their homes and workspaces unnecessarily raided by the DEA.
For phone numbers of your representatives, visit www.house.gov or call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
This experience has changed our lives, broken our hearts, mended our love and taught us to be open with our needs and know that family, friends, and community will respond with abundance and love. Please help prevent further stories like mine from happening to other patients and providers. Please do the compassionate thing and contact your representative today.