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I went to visit Will Foster in Jail A Couple of Nights Ago

I wrote about the Will Foster case in the Chronicle last week. Here's a brief summary: Foster had a small medical marijuana garden in Tulsa that was raided in 2005. Two years later, he was sentenced to an insane 93 YEARS in prison. Only after a publicity campaign in which DRCNet played a vital role was he resentenced to merely 20 years, and after being twice denied parole, he was paroled to California. Although Oklahoma thought Foster should be on parole until 2011, California decided he didn't need any more state supervision and released him from parole after three years. That wasn't punitive enough for Oklahoma. Although Foster had left the Bible Belt state behind with no intention of ever returning, Oklahoma parole officials issued a parole violation warrant for his extradition to serve out the remainder of his sentence. When Foster had to show ID in a police encounter, the warrant popped up, and he was jailed. Desperate, Foster filed a writ of habeas corpus and won! A California judge ruled the warrant invalid, and Foster was a free man again. But not for long. It's thirst for vengeance still unslaked, the state of Oklahoma issued yet another parole violation warrant for Foster's extradition because he refused to agree to an extension of his parole to 2015--four years past the original Oklahoma parole date. Then he got raided in California, thanks to bad information from an informant with an axe to grind. Foster had a legal medical marijuana grow, but it took a hard-headed Sonoma County prosecutor more than a year to drop charges, and Foster has been jailed the whole time. Now that the charges have been dropped, Foster still isn't free because Oklahoma still wants him back. Extradition warrants have been signed by the governors of both states, and he was days away from being extradited in shackles when he filed a new habeas writ this week. Filing the writ will stop him from being sent back to Oklahoma, but it also means he's stuck in jail for the foreseeable future. The writ is a legal strategy; his real best hope is to get one of those governors to rescind the extradition order. You can help. Click on this link to find out how to write the governors. I think a campaign of letters to the editor of Oklahoma papers might help, too. Those letters might ask why Oklahoma wants to continue to spend valuable tax dollars to persecute a harmless man whose only crime was to try to get some relief for his ailments--and who has no intention of ever returning there. ...So, anyway, I went to see Will at the Sonoma County Jail Saturday night. But I didn't get in. The steel-toes in my footwear set off the metal detector, and I quickly found out such apparel was a security risk. Who knew? I'll go back later this week. I guess I'll wear sandals. In the meantime, there are letters waiting to be written. Keyboard commandos, saddle up!

Alert: Medical Marijuana Defendant Bryan Epis Wants YOU to Take Political Action

Dear reformers:

You probably know my name from the pages of Drug War Chronicle. I was the first California medical marijuana provider to be prosecuted by the federal government -- in 1997, during the Clinton administration -- and I served two years before being released in 2004 while my ten-year sentence was appealed. Last month a federal judges panel upheld that sentence, and now I'm appealing to the full 9th Circuit.

I'm writing to StoptheDrugWar.org readers because I'm one of 32 medical marijuana activists who are still caught up in a federal prosecution, despite the Obama administration's promise to stop interfering with state medical marijuana laws; and because there are 67 others of us whose convictions are final and who should be pardoned. I've created a "political action" page that asks you to sign eight online petitions and to write a letter to President Obama about these issues. The page also takes on other aspects of marijuana prohibition. Please visit my page at http://www.bestlodging.com/politics/ to sign them -- the only way that anything will change is if we all let our voices be heard, and the dozens of us caught up in this for helping patients need for change to come sooner rather than later.

A little bit about the petitions, three of which I authored. One of them is directed to US Attorney General Eric Holder, listing the 32 medical marijuana defendants whose cases should be dismissed. Another is about my case, and emphasizes some egregious prosecutorial misconduct that occurred in my case and affected the outcome -- I think you'll agree it's an astonishing story. A third is directed to President Obama, and lists all 67 defendants whose convictions are final and who should be pardoned because they were implementing state medical marijuana law. (Let me know if I've left anyone out.) The other five petitions are related to these issues.

Thank you for standing up and taking action.

Sincerely,

Bryan Epis

Medical Marijuana: Revised New Hampshire Bill Passes Legislature, Awaits Governor's Approval

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/claytonholton.jpg
Clayton Holton
The New Hampshire legislature Wednesday approved revised medical marijuana legislation that would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, but not to grow it. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. John Lynch (D) for his signature.

The bill, HB 648, was amended earlier this month by a special legislative committee to address eight specific concerns expressed by Gov. Lynch. The bill had already passed the legislature, but faced a likely veto if Lynch's concerns weren't met.

The primary change to the bill was to remove the ability of patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine, which they can do in all other medical marijuana states. Under the amended bill, patients will have to go to one of three state-licensed nonprofit "compassion centers," which would be able to legally grow medical marijuana and dispense it to patients.

If the bill passes, New Hampshire will join New Mexico and Rhode Island as medical marijuana states that allow for state-licensed dispensaries. California's hundreds of dispensaries do not operate under state licensing, but are regulated at the local level.

"The bill now before Governor Lynch represents a victory for the spirit of compromise in which the needs of seriously ill Granite Staters are met while ensuring our communities have a well-regulated, safe medical marijuana program," said Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), prime sponsor of the medical marijuana bill. "Now that the bill has been tailored to meet the governor's specific concerns, we hope he will choose to do the right thing and support this much-needed reform."

"Once again, the legislature has clearly acknowledged that seriously ill patients should not have to live in fear of being arrested by New Hampshire police," observed Matt Simon, executive director for the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which was backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. "At this point, we can only hope that Governor Lynch will share the legislature's compassion."

Proponents of the measure Thursday began a radio ad campaign designed to pressure Lynch to sign the bill. It features Clayton Holton, a muscular dystrophy patient whose weight dropped to 80 pounds before he could access medical marijuana. The ads will air on several New Hampshire outlets for the next week.

East Asia: Korean Actress Stirs Debate, Outrage By Calling for Marijuana Legalization

A prominent Korean actress has created an uproar in South Korea by advocating for marijuana legalization in a pre-recorded interview on a popular morning program on national TV. Kim Bu-seon had already made a name for herself as a pot legalization crusader in 2004 when, after being sentenced to a suspended jail sentence for possession, she filed a constitutional challenge to the country's marijuana laws.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kimbusun.jpg
Kim Bu-seon
In last Friday's interview, Kim protested the recent arrest of actor Oh Gwang-rok for allegedly using marijuana, saying his actions caused no harm and did not impede his ability to do his job. She and Oh were similar, she said. "Have you ever heard any news that I committed a crime after smoking marijuana? I have never done anything harmful, as politicians or thieves have," she said.

Investigations into entertainers who smoke pot were an effort by the government to create a diversion, she said. "Whenever the government has troubles, it uses drug-taking entertainers to divert people's attention. It is the best way to make entertainers and artists obey the government."

Kim also argued that marijuana has medicinal uses. "Marijuana is not a narcotic; it is technically an Oriental herbal medicine which Koreans have used for 5,000 years," Kim said.

"If smoking it doesn't do harm to others, those who do need it, such as those suffering from depression or cancer patients, should be allowed to use it. Marijuana increases appetite and improves sleep," she continued. "Korea has the highest ratio of death by suicide among OECD members. The nation needs to take marijuana as a depression remedy and make depression patients come back to society."

Kim's remarks drew a strong response from TV viewers and Internet commenters, who attacked her views and the MBC public TV network for airing them. One blogger asked, "If marijuana is an Oriental medicine, is methamphetamine a Western medicine? [Editor's Note: The answer is yes, it is a Schedule II controlled substance.] It is not right to justify narcotics even though it is a minority opinion."

Another commenter wrote, "MBC, a public TV station, broadcast that marijuana could be helpful for society. It is obviously quite a low-quality show."

Numerous complainers have demanded that MBC issue an apology for airing the interview, but the program host said that while he disagreed with Kim's views, he would defend her right to articulate them.

People suspected of marijuana use in South Korea can be summarily drug tested by police and face significant jail sentences and/or deportation if they are foreigners. South Korean authorities and much of public opinion considers marijuana to be a hard drug.

Feature: American Nightmare -- Will Foster and Justice, Oklahoma Style

Will Foster became a poster child for the mindless cruelties of the drug war more than a decade ago. The Tulsa computer consultant and medical marijuana user -- he suffers from degenerative arthritis -- was raided by police with a warrant for a methamphetamine lab back in 1995. Police found no meth, but they did find a small marijuana garden. The unfortunate Foster was convicted of cultivation and sentenced in 2007 to a mind-blowing 93 years in prison.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/willfoster.jpg
Will Foster (medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com)
It took a growing national movement and, ultimately, an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision to get that sentence redressed. After the state high court threw out his sentence, Foster was resentenced to 20 years, twice denied parole, then finally paroled to the more medical marijuana-friendly state of California, where he moved in temporarily with "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal, who had testified in his defense in Oklahoma and then befriended him.

And they all lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. Although Foster settled into a law-abiding life in Northern California, picking up a new family along the way, and successfully completed what the state of California considered an adequate parole period, that wasn't good enough for the state of Oklahoma. Upset that California officials hadn't kept him on parole as long as they would have, Oklahoma parole officials demanded that he return to that benighted state to finish his parole and when he, perhaps understandably, declined, issued a warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

Nothing came of that until Foster had his ID checked in a police encounter, but then, the pending Oklahoma warrant popped up, and Foster was jailed in California to be returned to Oklahoma to finish the rest of his sentence. With nothing to lose, Foster fought the warrant by filing a writ of habeas corpus and winning its dismissal in the California courts in 2006.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/susiemueller.jpg
Susie Mueller and family
Once again, Foster was a free man, but Oklahoma still wasn't done with him. Oklahoma parole officials then offered to reinstate him in the interstate compact, which governs the supervision of parolees who parole to states other than the one in which they were sentenced, but then added that they had made a mistake when originally calculating the length of his parole period. His parole didn't end in 2011, but in 2015, they said, demanding he sign a document to that effect. Again, perhaps understandably, Foster declined that offer, and again, the state of Oklahoma issued another warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

By then, Foster had moved to Santa Rosa, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and was in a relationship with and supporting a local woman, Susie Mueller, and her three daughters. At Foster's residence, he had a medical marijuana grow, all completely legal under state law and county guidelines. But he also had a personal enemy, Mueller's estranged husband, who told law enforcement officials he was operating a major marijuana grow operation.

The next thing Foster and Mueller knew, DEA agents and Sonoma County sheriff's deputies were kicking down Foster's door, the couple was arrested on state marijuana cultivation charges, and Mueller's youngest daughter was taken into custody as an endangered child.

"It was terrible," said Mueller. "They did a full-on raid and arrested him over seven mature plants, and they arrested me and took my daughter away. They thought because he knew Ed there was something big going on. They said if I told them where the other grows were, they wouldn't arrest me and take my daughter. I told them that's all there was and that he was within the guidelines, and they said 'take her kid,' and they arrested me."

A hard-nosed Sonoma County prosecutor delayed months before dropping the baseless charges, and Foster sat in the Sonoma County Jail the whole time. But even after the charges were dropped, Foster remains behind bars, fighting the extradition warrant back to Oklahoma. It's now going on 16 months of imprisonment for him.

"In their warrant, they said I violated the terms and conditions of parole in Oklahoma, then fled Oklahoma to escape justice," Foster said Wednesday in a phone call from the jail. "But I haven't been back in Oklahoma since I left in 2001. I successfully finished parole here, I beat back that earlier extradition effort, and they're still coming after me."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger routinely signed off on the Oklahoma warrant without knowing all the facts, Foster said. "The governor has not been given all the information. Oklahoma didn't tell him I had finished parole, had an earlier extradition attempt thrown out, or that they had tried to extend my parole six years after the fact," he pointed out.

Neither the California nor the Oklahoma governors' offices nor Oklahoma parole officials responded to Chronicle inquiries about the Foster case.

Now, with his options running out, Foster and his supporters are pursuing two strategies, one political and one judicial. The first is aimed at the two governors, urging them to revoke the warrants. The second is to file another writ of habeas corpus, which Foster said he would do at the end of this month. Otherwise, he will be taken back to Oklahoma in shackles before July is over.

"I am asking the governor of Oklahoma to recall the warrant and commute my sentence and let me live in peace in California and just leave me alone," he said. "I'm asking Gov. Schwarzenegger to not honor the extradition request. There is case law suggesting that he does not have to grant extradition; he can deny it and recall his warrant."

Ed Rosenthal is leading the campaign to free Foster. On his blog is complete information about how to contact the two governors to ask them to recall the warrants.

"Every human being whose life is disrupted because of the marijuana laws deserves our attention, but Will's case is important first because people already know about the terrible injustice done to him back in Oklahoma, and second because it's just so weird and egregious," said Rosenthal. "People just shake their heads and say this shouldn't be happening. We're trying to get him out, and we're trying to bring this injustice to the attention of people who don't already know about it," he said.

"Apparently, Oklahoma has a lot of money to burn on this vindictiveness," he noted. "This is a sad and stupid case."

It's costing cash-strapped California, too. The cost for imprisoning Foster for the past 15 months is now in excess of $100,000, and that doesn't include the cost of the bogus marijuana cultivation prosecution.

"I'll be filing a habeas writ on June 29," Foster said, "and the state will have 15 days to respond. There will probably be a hearing in 30 days."

It's unusual for habeas writs to be granted, and Foster is uncertain about his prospects for victory, but is prepared for the long haul. "If I don't win there, I can drag this out for years. I could go all the way to the California Supreme Court, and then into the federal courts. But that would require that I continue to sit here in jail," he said.

Susie Mueller visits Foster in jail almost every day. "This is heartbreaking for me, it's very emotionally difficult because he shouldn't be in there," she said. "But I'm really devoted to him. I go almost every night, and we talk for an hour and play tic-tic-toe and go over the case."

In one of the strange ironies of Foster's ordeal, Mueller said she had gathered signatures for petitions seeking his release when he was imprisoned in Oklahoma a decade ago. "I met him at work here in Santa Rosa and didn't even realize he was that Will Foster," she laughed. "What a coincidence."

"Ed and Susie are the best advocates a guy could have," said Foster. "I'm so grateful for all they're doing."

For Foster, Oklahoma's efforts to punish him further are not about justice, but vengeance. "I beat them on the sentencing, I beat them on the first extradition warrant, and they want to teach me a lesson," he said. "They want to impose their authority."

Right now, the decision to extradite Foster back to Oklahoma is up to the two governors and their extradition specialists. An outpouring of public support in favor of allowing Foster to remain in California as a free man could make the difference.

Medical Cannabis Resource Center: TV Show Filming and Patient MeetUp

Please join us for our monthly filming and meeting. For more information, call 503-363-4588 or visit http://mercycenters.org/tv/. NOTE: MERCY-TV is filmed every last Thursday of the month in Salem, 7pm, at CCTV.
Date: 
Thu, 06/25/2009 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: 
585 Liberty St., SE
Salem, OR 97301
United States

Marijuana Debate on CNN




Rob Kampia's closing line is right on target. As the debate heats up, we're seeing our opposition desperately invoke the horrors of alcohol and tobacco in a cynical attempt to frame legalization in a familiar and negative context. The simple response is that those drugs are far more dangerous. The harms they cause are only relevant to the discussion insofar as they illustrate the mindless hypocrisy of our marijuana laws. If the most workable alcohol and tobacco policy is legalization, then the same must absolutely be true of marijuana.

Latin America: Chile Not Ready for Marijuana Legalization Yet, Poll Finds

An independent candidate in Chile's December presidential election has raised the topic of marijuana legalization, but according to a new Angus-Reid poll, that's not a winning issue in the conservative South American country. A solid majority oppose legalization, the poll found.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/marcoenriquezominami.jpg
Marco Enríquez-Ominami
More than 57% of Chileans polled by the organization said they opposed marijuana legalization. Only slightly more than one out of five (21.7%) supported legalization for medical reasons, and slightly fewer than one out of five (19.6%) supported general legalization.

Former Socialist Party politician Marco Antonio Enríquez-Ominami Gumucio, who split from the party to run for the presidency as an independent, had broached the topic. He created something of a stir in Chile by saying he "is a supporter of looking into the matter of legalizing marijuana."

That is apparently still a hard sell in the socially conservative country where abortion is illegal, being gay was a crime until 1988, and divorce was illegal until 2004. Whether Enríquez-Ominami's presidential bid gets any traction will be determined December 11, when the first round of the election will be held.

Alert: Medical Marijuana Defendant Bryan Epis Wants YOU to Take Political Action

Dear reformers:

You probably know my name from the pages of Drug War Chronicle. I was the first California medical marijuana provider to be prosecuted by the federal government -- in 1997, during the Clinton administration -- and I served two years before being released in 2004 while my ten-year sentence was appealed. Last month a federal judges panel upheld that sentence, and now I'm appealing to the full 9th Circuit.

I'm writing to StoptheDrugWar.org readers because I'm one of 32 medical marijuana activists who are still caught up in a federal prosecution, despite the Obama administration's promise to stop interfering with state medical marijuana laws; and because there are 67 others of us whose convictions are final and who should be pardoned. I've created a "political action" page that asks you to sign eight online petitions and to write a letter to President Obama about these issues. The page also takes on other aspects of marijuana prohibition. Please visit my page at http://www.bestlodging.com/politics/ to sign them -- the only way that anything will change is if we all let our voices be heard, and the dozens of us caught up in this for helping patients need for change to come sooner rather than later.

A little bit about the petitions, three of which I authored. One of them is directed to US Attorney General Eric Holder, listing the 32 medical marijuana defendants whose cases should be dismissed. Another is about my case, and emphasizes some egregious prosecutorial misconduct that occurred in my case and affected the outcome -- I think you'll agree it's an astonishing story. A third is directed to President Obama, and lists all 67 defendants whose convictions are final and who should be pardoned because they were implementing state medical marijuana law. (Let me know if I've left anyone out.) The other five petitions are related to these issues.

Thank you for standing up and taking action.

Sincerely,

Bryan Epis

Medical Marijuana: Legislature Overrides Veto to Make Rhode Island Third Dispensary State

The Rhode Island legislature Wednesday easily overrode Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri's veto of a bill that will create medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. The override vote was a unanimous 68-0 in the House and a punishing 35-3 in the Senate.

Rhode Island will now become the third medical marijuana state to allow for patients to be supplied through a dispensary system. The other two states are California and New Mexico. With the override, Rhode Island becomes the first state to expand an existing medical marijuana program to allow for state-licensed dispensaries. California voters did it at the polls, and in New Mexico, dispensary provisions were written into the law passed by the legislature.

"This gives a safe haven for those who have to go into the seedy areas to try and get marijuana," said Rep. Thomas Slater (D-Providence), who suffers from cancer and has said he plans to smoke the drug for pain relief. "I think that this center will definitely help those who most need it," he added as he received a standing ovation from the House floor.

"Our hard work has paid off," said Jesse Stout, director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. "Within a year, the Department of Health will license a nonprofit compassion center to grow and distribute medical marijuana for patients."

"We are seeing a historic shift to allowing state-licensed, regulated medical marijuana production and distribution," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which backed the effort. "Combining regulated distribution with provisions for patients to grow a limited quantity for themselves is the best way to assure safe access for patients, with solid safeguards to prevent abuse."

Other states where pending medical marijuana bills include dispensary provisions include Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In Arizona, a ballot initiative with similar language is circulating, while in Maine, voters will vote in November on an initiative to add dispensaries to that state's law.

"During the Bush administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided medical marijuana patients and caregivers in California, leaving states hesitant to set up state-regulated distribution," said MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston. "Now that the Obama administration has announced a policy change, state legislators seem to feel safer adopting a sensible, regulated system of medical marijuana distribution that avoids the mistakes of California, where dispensaries sprang up with no rules. This is a historic step forward."

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