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ASA’s Media Summary for the Week Ending 9/21/07

FEDERAL: Judge Says Patient Must Return to Prison

A California medical marijuana patient is being sent back to jail to finish a 10-year sentence. Shortly after voters legalized medical use in the state, Bryan Epis began cultivating marijuana for himself and a handful of other qualified patients. Federal prosecutors claimed he was a drug dealer hoping to get rich; defense attorneys say they lied and misrepresented evidence at trial. Epis was released from prison after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of medical marijuana patients in the Raich case, but now a judge says he has to go back and serve his original term.

Same term for medical pot grower
by Denny Walsh, Sacramento Bee (CA)
For the second time in five years, Bryan James Epis, the first person associated with a California cannabis buyers' club to be tried in a federal court for growing marijuana, was sentenced Friday in Sacramento to 10 years in prison.

WISCONSIN: State Measure Introduced Again

For the fifth year in a row, the Wisconsin state legislature is taking up the question of whether medical marijuana patients should be prosecuted for following their doctors’ advice. Polling shows that more than 75% of Wisconsin voters think access to medical marijuana should be legal. Lawmakers will again have the chance to bring public policy into line with public opinion.

Medical cannabis supporters unite
by Cara Harshman, Badger Herald (WI)
Is your medicine legal? Jacki Rickert’s isn’t. The Wisconsin mother joined two state legislators and other medical marijuana supporters Tuesday for a press conference to announce the introduction of new medical marijuana legislation.

Their medicine's not legal yet
by Jackie Johnson, Wisconsin Radio Network
Two state lawmakers introduce comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, called the "Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act."

In Politics: For the Health of It
by Doug Hissom, On Milwaukee Magazine
Some state legislators are trying the get Wisconsin out of the mainstream when it comes to pot laws. The latest effort is being billed as "the most comprehensive medical marijuana legislation to date," according to bill sponsors, state Reps. Frank Boyle (D-Superior) and Mark Pocan (D-Madison).

Just a bill: Medical marijuana
by Stacy Forster, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
People with debilitating medical conditions would have access to marijuana under a bill introduced by Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Madison and Frank Boyle of Superior.

Boyle reintroduces medical marijuana bill
KUWS radio (WI)
Using marijuana for medical relief will be proposed again in the Wisconsin legislature again this session. Mike Simonson reports from Superior.

NEW YORK: Medical Marijuana Bill Moving Forward

The state Assembly has already passed a bill to remove criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients in New York. Now the state Senate is considering a different version of the bill, one that could render the law unworkable. The tactic has drawn the condemnation of at least one editorial board.

NY State Sen. Morahan backs medical pot stance
by Matt King, Times-Herald Record (NY)
Days after medical marijuana advocates took out an ad targeting state Sen. Thomas Morahan, he reaffirmed his support for a bill allowing doctors to prescribe the drug for seriously ill patients.

Baloney on medical marijuana
EDITORIAL, Times Herald-Record (NY)
There's a trick politicians use when they want to appear to be in favor of some issue that has strong public support. They craft legislation that suggests support but include a provision they know the other political party won't go for.

FEDERAL: Targeting of Patients Continues, Condemned

When the US Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that federal agents may arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients if they choose, justice department officials said the government was not interested in going after sick people. Yet the two years since then have seen a sharp escalation of raids, with federal agents staging multiple, coordinated raids aimed at intimidating communities. The DEA is also seizing the homes of patients, even in state cases, while threatening to take any buildings been rented to dispensaries.

Our View - Pot raids make no constitutional sense
EDITORIAL, Daily 49er (Cal State Long Beach)
California has become the abused child of an oppressive regime. Rather than conducting raids in all states with legislation similar to California's Proposition 215 (enacted to allow using cannabis as an alternative form of treatment for a host of chronic ailments), the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has decided to flex their muscles here, on our turf.

Americans compromise on pot
by Michael Booth, Denver Post
Take one swift glance at a U.S. map coded to reflect the widely varying marijuana laws in each state, and drug policy seems to range from irrational to incoherent. But dig into the details of public opinion, user behavior and police enforcement, and a more lucid picture of American attitudes comes into focus: People have learned to live with pot, up to a fine point.

DEA Raids in Nevada County
by Nevada County Sheriff's Office, Yuba Net
Yesterday, September 13, 2007, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) executed search warrants for the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana. The first search warrant was served on a man with a valid Prop 215 medical marijuana recommendation, yet Prop 215 is not recognized under federal law.

Ridge woman to lose home over pot cultivation charge
Chico Enterprise Record
Patricia Hatton, 53, will be sentenced in Butte County Superior Court Nov. 7 on a felony charge of illegal cultivation of marijuana, and faces up to three years in prison. It's already been determined, however, that she will also lose her home.

WASHINGTON: Advocates Want Local Interference Stopped

State officials recognize that ambiguity in Washington’s medical marijuana law is creating conflicting views on what is legally permissible for patients. At issue is the quantity that constitutes the 60-day supply of medication provided for in the law. Since there are considerable differences in the dosages required by particular patients or conditions – some federal patients receive more than six pounds a year – setting state guidelines has proven tricky.

Pro-marijuana group wants Yakima investigated
KNDO - TV (WA)
A medical marijuana advocacy group is asking Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna to investigate Yakima County to see if it is following Washington's medical marijuana law.

Pot advocates criticize two county officials
by Mark Morey, Yakima Herald (WA)
Medical marijuana advocates are charging that Yakima County has disregarded the state's law regarding limited use of the drug by approved patients.

CALIFORNIA: Plant Count An Issue in Arrest

Similar to the question Washington officials face about what quantity of marijuana is legal to possess, some California counties are trying to interpret state guidelines. Unfortunately, some local officials have taken the state legislature’s minimum permissible amounts as limits, despite a state law that courts have said allows patients to grow and possess whatever they need. A particular problem with setting limits based on number of plants is that different varieties and cultivation techniques produce considerably different quantities of usable medicine.

Too many marijuana plants
by Rob Young, Marysville Appeal-Democrat (CA)
An East Marysville man had a medical marijuana card, but he and his wife had far more of the drug than allowed when their home was raided Tuesday, police said.

DISPENSARIES: Locals Debate Access as Nation Watches

With venerable news show 60 Minutes taking a look at California’s medical marijuana dispensaries, the nation will get another look at some of the issues surrounding these community-based solutions to the problem of safe access. Despite the interference of federal agencies, the California experience is a case study in federalism, providing a laboratory of experiment on how to meet both the needs of patients and the concerns of the larger community. ASA’s report on the experience of local officials shows that a regulated approach to dispensaries works; see it at www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/DispensaryReport.

The Debate On California's Pot Shops
by Morley Safer, 60 Minutes - CBS News
The idea was a noble one: pass a law to make marijuana legal for cancer and AIDS sufferers whose pain and nausea the drug is known to relieve. But the law the Rev. Scott Imler thought would one day put the drug in pharmacies has instead created "pot dealers in storefronts" who sell to anyone with doctors' notes that are fairly easy to obtain.

Norco bans pot dispensaries
by Andrea Bennett, Daily Bulletin (CA)
The City Council voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in all city zones on Wednesday night.

CANADA: Patient’s Case Challenges Registration Requirement

Like most state medical marijuana programs in the U.S., Health Canada requires patients to register to receive federal marijuana and be considered legal. But not all patients who are helped by medical marijuana can or will register with such programs. A case being considered in Canada may address the issue there.

Nova Scotia medical marijuana case now in hands of jury
by Tom McCoag, Halifax Chronicle Herald (Canada)
The fate of a Maccan-area man who says he has the cure for cancer is now in the hands of a Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury.

MORE ABOUT AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS

Find out more about ASA at AmericansForSafeAccess.org. More medical marijuana news summaries can be seen at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/News.

Location: 
United States

NHS: Cannabis Petition, Government Response

Legalise Cannabis Alliance petition (UK), and government response: Response from UK Downing Street on petition (note the last paragraph) NHS-cannabis - petition reply 21 September 2007 We received a petition asking: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make cannabis/cannabis based drugs legal and available on NHS prescription to people suffering chronic pain and other ill health." *Details of Petition:* "Cannabis and cannabis based drugs are proven to be of great benefit to people suffering from chronic pain and illnesses such as cancer and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Canada, some US states and other countries. As the law currently stands, cannabis is illegal in the UK and cannot be prescribed on the NHS." * Read the petition * Petitions home page Read the Government's response: The Government has every sympathy for people who suffer from debilitating illnesses who cannot satisfactorily alleviate their symptoms through the use of existing medication. However, cannabis has a number of acute and chronic health effects and remains a controlled drug for good reasons. It is in this context that, on 27 May 2005, the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal to allow the use of cannabis (in its raw form) for the relief of chronic pain. The Court took the view that necessity was no defence for using or supplying the drug. It dismissed appeals in six cases where people were given fines or suspended sentences after convictions for possessing or importing cannabis. The Court also took the view that the general prohibition on cannabis in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 showed that any benefits perceived or suggested for individual patients were regarded as outweighed by the detriment of allowing its use. The judges left open the possibility of an appeal to the House of Lords because of the public importance of the issue. Whilst the Government has no intention of legalising the use of cannabis in its raw form for medicinal purposes, it would be willing to legalise the scientifically established medicinal use of a medical preparation of the drug. Any decision to legalise such a product is subject to product approval being granted by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which will evaluate the safety, quality and effectiveness of all prospective medicines in the interests of public health. Sativex (Cannabis Sativa L.Extract) is an unlicensed medicine in the UK and a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act, listed in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Previously, Sativex could only be prescribed by a doctor who had been granted the appropriate licence, and pharmacists could only stock and supply the product if they too had the appropriate licence. Guidance on this was issued by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in the December 2005 issue of Community Pharmacy News. Since then, the Home Office has confirmed that it has issued an open general licence for the product which allows pharmacists to dispense the product as an unlicensed medicine under certain conditions. There is no longer the requirement for a prescribing doctor or dispensing pharmacist to contact the Home Office in relation to obtaining a licence to prescribe or supply Sativex. The Home Office has lifted the record-keeping requirements and pharmacists now do not need to record Sativex in their controlled drug registers. There are provisions for patients to obtain Sativex in the UK but it would be for the individual patient and their doctor to discuss and consider whether the use of Sativex is appropriate for their particular clinical need. The GP concerned would have to write out the prescription and the pharmacist would contact the manufacturer for a supply of Sativex. Prescription requirements for Sativex still apply whereby prescriptions must be written in the same way as they are for Schedule 2 drugs with prescriptions including the dose, form, strength and total quantity of the preparation in both words and figures. Sativex is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled drug and will remain so until such time as it has been approved by the MHRA, at which point the Home Office anticipates that Sativex (but not cannabis) will be rescheduled as a Schedule 4 controlled drug. Unfortunately, the MHRA cannot provide information about the status of an application or when it can be expected. The Agency will only approve applications once it is satisfied that the product in question is of a suitable quality, is efficacious and safe, and has an appropriate risk/benefit for the patients and indications sought. There has always been provision in both UK and European legislation which allows doctors to prescribe an unlicensed medicinal product (for which they are personally responsible) specially prepared and for administration to a particular patient to meet a special clinical need.
Location: 
United Kingdom

Paey Starts Afresh with Call from Crist

Location: 
FL
United States
Publication/Source: 
St. Petersburg Times
URL: 
http://www.sptimes.com/2007/09/22/Pasco/Paey_starts_afresh_wi.shtml

Americans for Safe Access Saves Medical Cannabis Laws!

Dear ASA Supporter, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) scored an important victory in Congress yesterday, one that may have protected the medical cannabis laws in all twelve states in which they have been adopted. In April, ASA was the first to get word from allies in Washington, DC, that staunch medical cannabis opponent Senator Tom Coburn planned to quietly introduce an amendment to the Prescription Drug Use Fee Act, that would have effectively blocked implementation of state medical cannabis laws by giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to obstruct these laws! ASA and our allies in the HIV/AIDS community sprang into action – launching a stealthy campaign to kill the amendment without alerting our adversaries. Yesterday, the bill was adopted without the harmful Coburn amendment! This is exactly the work we came to do when we opened the first office in Washington, DC devoted exclusively to medical cannabis advocacy. We need your support to be sure we are here to fight back again next time – and take the campaign on the offensive. Please take a moment to support ASA’s work today by visiting www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/Join. ASA has worked hard to establish strategic alliances with health care advocacy organizations in order to expand and strengthen the coalition supporting medical cannabis. This new coalition had the power to persuade Senator Ted Kennedy and Presidential Candidates Senators Clinton and Obama to oppose the amendment. ASA and our allies continued working to be sure the sneaky amendment was not introduced in the House, and ultimately removed from the final bill. We had to act fast and work in concert with our allies, but we were able to stop the Senator’s attempt to do an administrative end run around states’ medical cannabis laws. Unfortunately, this will not be the last time we have to fight off an attack on safe access. That is why ASA continues to educate members of Congress, advocate for policies that promote safe and legal access, and keep an eye on our increasingly sophisticated opponents. We need your continued support to do this work so please contribute today: www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/Join. We rely on support from people like you to defend safe access against threats like the Coburn amendment. Please help us do this work, so that we can finally harmonize federal law with the laws of the states that allow medical cannabis use. Only then, will patients’ access be truly safe. Thank you for doing your part! Sincerely, Steph Sherer Executive Director Americans for Safe Access
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Medical Marijuana: Bryan Epis Re-Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison

Bryan Epis, the first California medical marijuana provider tried in federal court for growing marijuana, was sentenced last Friday to 10 years in federal prison -- again. Epis was convicted in 2002 of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants and served 25 months of his original 10-year sentence before being released on appeal bond.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/bordenepis.jpg
David Borden and Bryan Epis at the 2005 NORML conference
The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered the lower court to reconsider Epis' conviction, but it found him guilty again.

Epis argued all along that he was a medical marijuana patient who worked with other patients within California law at a medical marijuana grow in Chico. But prosecutors portrayed him as an entrepreneurial mastermind with plans to distribute marijuana across the state.

In an unusual move, Circuit Court Judge Frank Damrell refused prosecution requests to immediately take Epis into custody, noting that the 9th Circuit had earlier ordered him released "without comment," a move Damrell described as "unprecedented in my experience. The law requires such an action be supported by exceptional circumstances, so I can only assume that they found exceptional circumstances," Damrell said. "My suspicion is the 9th Circuit would grant bail again," the judge added.

Damrell set an October 22 hearing date for a forthcoming motion for bail pending appeal.

Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland, has argued that prosecutor Samuel Wong and DEA agents intentionally misinterpreted documents seized at Epis' home when it was searched in June 1997. Wong described the documents as a statewide marketing plan, saying Epis' "goal was to go statewide and use Proposition 215 as a shield to manufacture and traffic marijuana."

Grantland told Damrell that the 9th Circuit was "very interested" in her allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and perjury by narcotics officers in the case. Damrell agreed that the appeals court "may have some interest" in the issues Grantland raised.

For his part, Epis told the court he was a martyr for medical marijuana.
"If Proposition 215 had not passed, I wouldn't be standing here today," Epis told Damrell. "I'm being prosecuted because I have a heart. I've seen too many people suffer and die from cancer and AIDS not to try to help them. I'm not ashamed of what I did, but I am sorry for my family."

Feature: Wisconsin Medical Marijuana Bill to Be Introduced

Ten years ago Tuesday, Wisconsin medical marijuana patient Jacki Rickert led a 210-mile trek of wheelchair-bound patients to the state capitol in Madison in a "Journey for Justice" seeking legal access to the medicine they said made their lives bearable. This Tuesday, Rickert commemorated that anniversary with a press conference at the capitol, where she was joined by two state representatives who announced they would introduce a medical marijuana bill this session. They are calling it the "Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act."

With a history of failed medical marijuana bills in the state and a legislature with one house controlled by Republicans, proponents are not predicting certain victory this session, but they do say they will give it their best shot.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/barroffice.jpg
Jacki Rickert and Gary Storck, with Jim and the late Cheryl Miller, outside former Rep. Bob Barr's office (immly.org)
While medical marijuana is legal in 12 states, a victory in Wisconsin would be the first in the Midwest. But Wisconsin will have to hustle to be the first; legislative efforts have already advanced in Illinois and Minnesota, and Michigan looks to be set for a statewide initiative in November 2008.

If Reps. Frank Boyle (D-Superior) and Mark Pocan (D-Madison) have their way, Wisconsin will be in the thick of the race. "We want to make sure that this is the year Wisconsin gets it," Boyle said at the Tuesday press conference. "Twelve states have now legalized medical marijuana, and I'm sick and tired of the state of Wisconsin dying a most regressive death in what used to be progressive tradition."

While the measure is still in the drafting stage, according to a cosponsoring memo being circulated by Boyle and Pocan, the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act's key provisions include the following:

  • Provide a medical necessity defense to marijuana-related prosecutions and property seizure actions. A person may evoke this defense if they are undergoing a debilitating medical condition or treatment and have written consent from their physician or obtained a valid registry ID card from the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS). Conditions include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, diseases that cause wasting away, severe pain or nausea, seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, and any other medical condition or treatment in rules promulgated by DHFS.
  • Create a maximum authorized amount of marijuana a patient may have, thus establishing clear limits for both patients and law enforcement officials.
  • Prohibit the arrest of a physician who provides a written certification in good faith. Also, the primary caregiver is protected by the same exceptions under the law.
  • The defense may not be applicable if the patient performs an illegal act while using marijuana. This includes driving or operating a motor vehicle, operating heavy machinery, smoking near a school, park or youth center, at a person's employment, etc.
  • Require DHFS to establish a registry for medical users of marijuana and an ID card to a qualifying patient.
  • This bill only changes state law regarding marijuana. Federal law on marijuana does not change. However, 99% of marijuana arrests are made by state and local officials, not federal officials.

"If someone has the written consent of their physician or has obtained a valid registry card from DHFS, they would be allowed to have the possession or be able to grow a certain amount of medicinal marijuana," Pocan explained.

"Please, we have to make this legal," Rickert told the press conference. "I beg all of you. We know it works. We know it's not going to kill us," Rickert said. "I have never had an allergic reaction to a God-given herb."

Rickert wasn't the only patient speaking Tuesday. A 21-year-old, who called herself only Lynn, said she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years earlier, and lost her sight, mobility and independence from the disease. Lynn told the crowd smoking medical marijuana worked on her symptoms when nothing else did, eventually allowing her to be well enough to live on her own.

"If you had a 19-year-old daughter who was in pain every day, what would you do to help?" Lynn asked. "You could be put on five different drugs three times a day every day, like I was. Or you can take pot, and now I'm on two drugs a day."

Another patient, J.F. Oschwald of Colorado, addressed the press conference from his wheelchair. "Medicine is medicine and if they can regulate morphine then they can regulate marijuana," he said.

"This was a nice start," said medical marijuana patient Gary Storck, who, along with Rickert, is a cofounder of the Wisconsin medical marijuana advocacy group Is My Medicine Legal Yet?. "We had a number of patients speak, as well as Boyle and Pocan, and we got some good media coverage," he told the Chronicle.

Responses at the capitol have grown less frosty than a decade ago, Storck said. "When I go up there lobbying with patients, I'm seeing changed attitudes. We're being well-received, and you can see that some of the staffers are really affected. It looks like this is finally gaining some legs," he said.

Part of the change in attitude is due to the educational efforts of medical marijuana activists and proponents, said Storck. "Patients are more willing to come out and let their stories be told, and that only helps," he said. "The fact that other states are passing it or coming close to passing it helps, too. We're ringed by states where they're already a little closer."

But with Republicans controlling the state Assembly, it will be a difficult battle this two-year session, he said. "We've got an agreement from one senator to hold an informational hearing in November, but I'm afraid this will just be caught up in politics as usual this session. I'm hoping the Democrats will take back the Assembly next year -- that would really improve our chances. Gov. Doyle has already said he will sign a medical marijuana bill," Storck added.

Still, Storck, Rickert, IMMLY and other medical marijuana supporters aren't waiting for next year. "There's always the hope the legislature will come to its senses," he said. "Legislators have until October 4 to sign on as cosponsors, and we're hoping a senator or two will sign on so it can move. While we think we'll have better luck with a Democrat-controlled legislature, we will continue to push now."

Pain Patients: Florida Prisoner Richard Paey is Pardoned

Richard Paey, the wheelchair-bound Florida pain patient sentenced to 25 years in prison as a drug dealer for seeking desperately-needed medications, may be a free man by the time you read this. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) granted Paey a full pardon on Thursday after a brief hearing in Tallahassee. Paey and his family had only sought clemency.

Paey was severely injured in a 1985 auto accident. A New Jersey physician provided him with prescriptions for necessary pain relievers, but when Paey moved to Florida he took pre-signed prescription forms with him. He was arrested in 1997 and charged with illegally possessing and trafficking in about 700 pain pills obtained with those prescriptions.

Under Florida's draconian drug laws, persons in possession of that amount of pain medication are treated as drug traffickers. Standing on principle, Paey refused plea offers from the state and was ultimately convicted and sentenced to the mandatory minimum 25-year sentence.

Paey's case became a cause celebre for the country's growing pain patient and doctor movement. In August, the governor's office announced that it would grant a waiver allowing Paey to seek clemency. In most cases, inmates cannot seek clemency until they have serve 1/3 of their time.

Thursday, Gov. Crist and three members of the Florida cabinet heard Paey's appeal for clemency. Though the state's parole commission had recommended against granting time-served, Crist went further, granting him a full pardon and ordering he be released immediately. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Crist allowed Paey's attorney, John Flannery to speak for nearly 30 minutes -- the usual time limit is five minutes, then allowed Paey's wife, three children and a family friend to speak as well.

Crist then commented, "I want to move that we grant a full pardon," continuing, "We aim to right a wrong and exercise compassion and to do it with grace," the governor said. "Congratulations... and I state he should be released today."

For further information on the Paey case, click here.

Two People I Know Were Sentenced to Prison Last Week

The Paey Pardon, as Scott blogged about here and here, was a nice piece of news, of the kind that doesn't come around too often. The last such pleasant surprise I had came in late 2000, when Kemba Smith and Dorothy Gaines were pardoned by then-President Clinton. I immediately left a message for my friend Rob Stewart, who had played a major role in bringing the Gaines case to prominence by writing it in the old Drug Policy Letter (Drug Policy Foundation, predecessor to Drug Policy Alliance), which led to coverage of her case by Frontline. Rob told me later he had two messages on his voicemail -- one from me and one from Dorothy Gaines. These moments are rewards for all the rest of it. Unfortunately, not many political leaders seem to be of the moral caliber of Gov. Crist, and there are many more victims of the drug laws who remain unpardoned. Two of them, whom I happen to know, were sentenced to prison a week ago. One of them was Bryan Epis, the first person prosecuted by the feds for medical marijuana. He received the same 10-year sentence. The other was William Mangino, a pain physician in Pennsylvania, sentenced to 8 1/2 - 20 years. Bryan was allowed to remain free pending appeal. See our upcoming Chronicle newsbrief for some detail. Bryan actually told me a few days before the court date that he anticipated getting another 10 years, but being allowed to stay free pending appeal, and he was right. He says he has a good chance on appeal, and it sounds like it -- the prosecution really acted unethically in his case, and the judge, who is by no means biased toward defendants, commented that there are issues the appellate court may want to look at. Dr. Mangino predicted a harsh sentence, and that he would not be allowed to stay free pending appeal. Unfortunately, he was right too. Christine Heberle's blog post on the War on Doctors/Pain Crisis blog lays out the glaring absence of any crime. Accountability for injustices committed under the guise of law may be too much to hope for. But at least we should have justice now. I simply don't feel that letting people like Richard Paey and Bryan Epis and Bill Mangino live their lives unmolested by the government is asking for too much.
Location: 
United States

Richard Paey's Torturers Must be Held Accountable

As we celebrate Richard Paey's freedom today, it is important to remember that his tragic fate was no accident. Many people worked very hard at tax-payers' expense to put this innocent and miserable man behind bars. They deserve recognition today as well.

Certainly, these events vividly depict the insanity of a war on drugs that targets seriously ill people for trying to treat their own pain:
State prosecutors concede there's no evidence Paey ever sold or gave his medication away. Nevertheless, under draconian drug-war statutes, these prosecutors could pursue distribution charges against him based solely on the amount of medication he possessed (the unauthorized possession of as few as 60 tablets of some pain medications can qualify a person as a "drug trafficker"). [National Review]
Yet, as Radley Balko revealed at National Review, the persecution of Richard Paey involved so much more than the reckless enforcement of short-sighted laws. This was a prolonged and deliberate campaign on the part of malicious prosecutors and vengeful prison officials.

*Prosecutors blamed Paey's harsh sentence on Paey himself, claiming that he should have accepted a plea bargain. As Balko explains, they essentially retaliated against him for asserting his factual innocence and insisting on his right to a jury trial.

*Prison officials transferred Paey further away from his family after he gave a New York Times interview that was critical of the State of Florida.

*Prison medical staff threatened to withhold Paey's medication, also in apparent retaliation for his interview with the New York Times. Since he could die without it, this was the functional equivalent of a death threat and caused him great distress.

Now that Florida's Governor and Cabinet have concluded that Paey did nothing wrong, it is time to examine the way he was treated throughout this great travesty. If there are sociopaths working in Florida's criminal justice system, that's something Governor Crist would want to know about. If we can afford to imprison people for decades in order to protect ourselves from drugs, surely we can also afford to evaluate public servants who wield extraordinary power in order to ensure that they aren't deeply disturbed.

Mentally healthy people do not persecute the seriously ill, even if the drug war says it's ok.
Location: 
United States

Richard Paey Receives Full Pardon

The plight of Richard Paey has been shocking even by the drug war's rock bottom standards. Sentenced to 25 years in a Florida prison for possession of the pain medication he used to treat his own crippling back pain, Paey spent the last 3½ years behind bars.

Today, he is free:
Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet voted unanimously to grant Paey a full pardon Thursday morning for his 2004 conviction on drug trafficking and possession charges.

"We aim to right a wrong and exercise compassion and to do it with grace," the governor said. "Congratulations … and I state he should be released today."

With that, Paey's wife Linda, their three children, a family friend and attorney John Flannery II hugged and cried at the podium, the entire cabinet meeting room erupting into applause at 9:40 a.m. [St. Petersburg Times]
Justice in the war on drugs is a rare spectacle, and it is just delightful to witness. We've reported endlessly on this case, as have so many others, and it is wonderful to find that these efforts have not been in vain.
Location: 
United States

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