Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Walters, Hutchinson-style "Compassionate Conservative" treatment toward people in states that voted to legalize medical marijuana:

10 years for a medical marijuana caregiver

Sign the online petition to free Bryan Epis.

Bryan Epis

Chronic pain patient, medical marijuana caregiver

Serving 10 years for conspiracy to cultivate marijuana

Bryan Epis learned about the medical value of marijuana to treat his chronic pain after he was seriously injured in a car accident. When California voters overwhelmingly passed Prop 215 (Cal HS 11362.5), a law authorizing cultivation and possession of marijuana for patients and their caregivers, Brian Epis saw an opportunity to do a tremendous service. His dream was to create a legal medical marijuana dispensary that would be safe, accessible and affordable.

The US Supreme Court ruled in the US v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop case that state law does not supercede federal law but federal law does not overturn state law, either. Rather than allow the will of the voters to take effect in California, however, the Bush administration has aggressively pursued patients and caregivers throughout the state. Epis was the first case to work its way through the federal courts. In order to increase the severity of the penalty, Ashcroft's office chose not only to charge Epis with the plants he was actually growing, but also with "conspiracy" to grow more than 1000 plants, which carries the same penalty as actually growing 1000 plants! The federal judge instructed the jury to disregard state law and vote to convict despite it, which they did. Epis was sentenced to 10 years for trying to help sick and dying people live with comfort and dignity, in accordance with the democratic will of the voters.

This is painfully cynical because Bush calls himself "compassionate" while the California law was entitled the "Compassionate Use Act of 1996" and the federal program that dispenses medical marijuana is called the "Compassionate Investigational New Drugs" program -- and during his campaign for president, Bush said the States should decide about medical marijuana. It makes sense for Bush to issue a presidential pardon for Mr. Epis as a gesture toward keeping his word.

Message from federal medical marijuana prisoner Bryan Epis: Please Help!

April 10, 2003 -- Please spend 5 minutes to write your U.S. House representative at www.house.gov and ask him/her to support a new bill introduced by Rep Sam Farr (D-Carmel), Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) and Dana Rohrabacher (R- Huntington Beach), that will allow medical cannabis patients and caregivers to present a defense in federal court that they were following state and/or local medical marijuana laws. Please spend another 5 minutes of your time to write your two U.S. Senators urging them to introduce and/or support a similar bill in the Senate at www.sentate.gov.

I was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for the "crime" of following California's medical marijuana law. Ed Rosenthal was recently convicted at trial and faces 40 years in federal prison. We were unable to present a defense that we were following the laws of California and/or local laws. If this bill is signed into law, we will get a new trial.

I've included two sample letters, one for your U.S. House Rep. and one for your two US Senators. Please modify them so they don't get a bunch of the sme exact letters. It is only fair that medical marijuana patients and caregivers get a fair trial, where we can present evidence that we followed state law. According to a CNN/Time poll, 87% of Americans support regulation by the states. Please let Congress know you want them to listen to you. Only with hyour help can this bill become law. Please help me and my family, Ed Rosenthal and his family, as well as thousands of other patients and caregivers following state and/or local laws, who are rapidly being incarcerated in federal prison for at least 5 years and up to life.

You can write me at: Political Prisoner, Bryan Epis, 09636-097, FCI Lompoc, 3600 Guard Rd, Lompoc CA 93436. I'll write back anyone who writes me. To read more about my case, please enter "Bryan Epis" on a search engine such as google.com. Thank you,

-- Bryan Epis

Sample letter for your U.S. House representative:

The Hon. (Insert name)

Representatives Sam Farr, Lynn Woolsey and Dana Rohrabacher are introducing a bill called the "Affirmative Defense Bill" that will allow a defense in federal court for patients and caregivers following state medical marijuana laws. I urge our to cosponsor and support this bill as it shows respect for state sovereignty.

Thank you,

(Your name, address and phone #)

Sample letter for your US Senators:

The Hon. (Insert name)

Representatives Sam Farr, Lynn Woolsey and Dana Rohrabacher are introducing a bill called the "Affirmative Defense Bill" that will allow a defense in federal court for patients and caregivers following state medical marijuana laws. I urge you to introduce and/or support a similar bill in the Senate, as it will show respect for the sovereign states which comprise our federal union.

Thank you,

(Your name, address and phone #)

Frequently Asked Questions: The Bryan Epis Case

The First CA Caregiver Convicted of a Federal Drug Crime Faces 10+ Years in Prison

Prepared by Americans for Safe Access (http://safeaccessnow.org/). ASA is a grassroots campaign of medical marijuana patients and supporters working to force the Bush administration to back off its anti-medical marijuana campaign and grant states the right to choose and govern medical marijuana laws. ASA works to prepare and defend medical marijuana dispensaries and the patients they serve from attacks by the Bush administration through legislative strategies, media campaigns, and non-violent direct action.

Isn't medical marijuana legal in California?

Yes. On November 6, 1996, the voters passed the California Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215). In January 1997, Judge Garcia of San Francisco ruled that cannabis dispensaries could operate under the guidelines of Prop. 215 as long as they followed specific required procedures. July 18, 2002, the California Supreme Court ruled, "The possession and cultivation of marijuana is no more criminal -- so long as [the law's] conditions are satisfied -- than the possession and acquisition of any prescription drug with a physician's prescription."

Who is Bryan Epis?

Medical Marijuana Patient. Bryan Epis is a medical marijuana patient. He obtained a recommendation to use cannabis for chronic upper back and neck pain that he received as the result of fracturing two vertebrae in a near-fatal car accident.

Green Thumb. With a green thumb and a desire to grow medicine for others like him who desperately needed it, Bryan Epis sought guidance from two attorneys regarding the legalities of opening a medical cannabis dispensary in Butte County. He traveled all around the Bay Area to view other successful dispensaries (some of which are still open today) and learn the best procedures for following the letter of the law. Bryan met a Chico couple who ran a successful business selling products made with imported industrial hemp, Everything's Hemp. Together, in March 1997, they founded the Chico Medical Marijuana Caregivers (CMMC).

Not-for-Profit Caregiver. As CMMC's sole supplier, Bryan Epis always followed the guidelines exactly, sure to cross his t's and dot his i's. In April of 1997, CMMC started providing medical clinics. CMMC had approximately 40 patients, all of which were properly screened having their medical recommendations verified by their physicians. Bryan Epis personally provided money for five indigent patients to see physicians.

Bryan Epis never profited from medical cannabis and provided it only to seriously ill patients with doctors' recommendations. Bryan provided medical marijuana to CMMC patients for no more than half of what other dispensaries around the state charged. This barely covered his expenses, but Bryan always put his ambition to help others in pain before his financial interests.

When did the Feds go after the Chico Medical Cannabis Caregivers?

March 1997. As soon as CMMC was formed, the Butte county sheriff contacted the DEA in Sacramento regarding a cannabis medical dispensary opening in Chico. They started a federal investigation to circumvent California's medical marijuana law. They planted a confidential informant to observe the events at CMMC.

June 25, 1997. Just a few months after CMMC opened, Butte county sheriffs raided Bryan Epis' house and federal agents arrested him for cultivating medical cannabis (even though he was following Judge Garcia's rulings and guidelines). At the same time, the Butte county sheriff raided Everything's Hemp and the CMMC. To further the injustice, all the medical records of CMMC's patients were stolen from CMMC attorney Grady Davis's office.

How can Bryan Epis be prosecuted in a state where medical marijuana is legal?

State Law is No Defense to Federal Charges. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that state laws legalizing medical marijuana do not provide a defense to federal drug charges.

What has happened so far in the Bryan Epis trial?

Epis Demands Trial. Bryan Epis was charged with growing over 100 plants, which has a 5-year mandatory minimum. Prosecutors offered to let him spend four years in federal lock-up if he would give up his right to a trial. When he refused their offer, they carried through on their threat to charge him with "planning or conspiring to grow over 1000 plants" which has a ten-year mandatory minimum.

Prosecutors Get Gag Order. The prosecutor filed a motion asking the judge to disallow any evidence of medical cannabis in his trial. His motion was GRANTED by the judge. He was convicted by a jury that has no idea that he was a medical marijuana caregiver protected by state law and not a common street dealer.

What will happen to Bryan Epis now?

Ten+ Years in Jail. Thirty-five year-old Bryan Epis, the first California caregiver to be convicted of a federal drug crime since the vote to legalize marijuana for medical use, will be sentenced August 26, 2002, to a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.

What can be done to help Bryan Epis?

Damrell, Bush: Set Bryan Free! On the eve of Bryan Epis' sentencing, Americans for Safe Access will hold candlelight vigils around the country, in an attempt to impress upon the consciences of Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr., and President Bush that Bryan shouldn't have to go to jail. People like Bryan Epis who serve the poor and the sick, not for profit but out of kindness, should be revered and assisted, not put in jail. Only the judge and the president have the power to help him now, but it must be emphasized that they do have the power. They can use their free will in the service of justice and freedom to set Bryan Epis free!

How can we protect medical marijuana caregivers like Bryan Epis from criminal prosecutions?

Pass HR 2592. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision that federal drug laws preempt state reforms, Congress must act. Congress should pass the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, H.R. 2592, that would assure the eight states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal that their citizens who follow their laws will not be subject to federal prosecutions.

Make the States Accountable to Voters. States like California that passed medical marijuana referendums must be accountable for implementing the voters' will. By creating clear state guidelines on how patients will be supplied their medicine, states can help protect their citizens from federal harassment by showing active engagement in defending patients' rights.

-- Hilary McQuie, Campaign Coordinator, Americans for Safe Access

1678 Shattuck Ave. #317, Berkeley, CA 94709. Phone: 510-486-8083 / Fax: 510-486-8090


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