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Medical Cannabis Protesters Ask Obama for Hope & ChangeSalem-News.com
Obama may stop the DEA Raids but will Obama stop Federal Prosecution & Imprisonment?
(LOS ANGELES) - Monday outside the Federal Courthouse dozens of medical marijuana supporters protested against all the local and federal tax-payer money wasted on the war on medical cannabis spent on local investigations.
They also protested Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids, Federal prosecutions and imprisonment for people like Charles C. Lynch who faces dozen of years in federal prison.
On February 4, White House Spokesman, Nick Shapiro, said that President Obama did not want to waste federal law enforcement resources circumventing state medical marijuana laws, and that he expected his new appointees to consider this when setting policy for their agencies.
"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," Shapiro said.
The official statement does not help Lynch, who was convicted in August of last year for operating a medical marijuana dispensing collective in Morro Bay. Organizers want to draw public attention to Lynch's case in hopes that Judge George H. Wu will use his discretion to impose a lenient sentence on the 46-year old Lynch. Wu will sentence Lynch on Monday March 23, 2009 at 8:30 a.m.
Protest organizers criticize the amount of local and federal tax-payer money wasted in circumventing state law and the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
"In this economic crisis, it's obscene how much money California and U.S. tax payers have to pay to prosecute Charlie who obeyed all local and state laws." says Hope-for-Cannabis-Change event organizer Cheryl Aichele, "And we all will pay even more if Charlie goes to prison".
San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Sheriff, Patrick Hedges, had the SLO County narcotic department investigate Lynch's dispensary, Central Coast Compassionate Caregiver, for nearly a year. SLO New Times estimates Hedges wasted $100,000 on this investigation alone. Hedges found no evidence against Lynch to obtain a state search warrant, so he then invited the DEA to raid Lynch's home and dispensary.
Aichele has written a formal complaint against Hedges for his involvement in the Lynch case. Undersheriff Steven Bolts has forwarded Aichele's complaint to State Attorney General, Jerry Brown's office. Aichele has also filed a complaint with SLO County Grand Jury. The complaints accuse Hedges of breaking California law to enforce Federal law while wasting California tax-payer money.
U.S. tax payers pay even more than California for Lynch's raid, arrest, and prosecution. Lynch's case has galvanized local medical marijuana patients and supporters, who regard him as an unnecessary casualty of former President Bush's anti-medical cannabis policy.
California voters approved marijuana for medical use in 1996 and twelve other states have since done the same. During Bush's tenure the DEA raided hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in states that had legalized doctor-recommended cannabis.
In a written response to House Judiciary Committee Chair, John Conyers, the DEA reported that they spent $440,135.58 on over fifty Bush-Administration-approved raids. This amount represents the direct operational expenditures that the DEA can associate with particular investigations. These operational expenditures do not include costs such as salaries, equipment, training, etc.
This amount includes two raids against Lynch in 2007. The DEA, in that letter to Conyers, claims they only spent $346.14 on Lynch's raids which does not include the salary of Special Agent Rachel Burkdohl who was at the initial raid on Lynch and has been at each of Lynch's court appearances.
Sources close to Lynch's federal case have estimated that the prosecution of Lynch has cost American tax payers over $1,000,000.00 even though Lynch followed all his "Medical Marijuana Dispensary" business license requirements, city regulations, county restrictions and State laws.
Federal Prosecutor David Kowal successfully argued to keep the word "medical" marijuana, "sick-looking" people, and many of the real-world facts of the case from the jury. On August 5, 2008, after an emotional trial a jury of his peers convicted Lynch on all 5 felonies including possession with intent to distribute, maintaining a drug premise, 2 counts of sales to minors (age 18-21), and conspiracy to distribute.
It should be noted that the federal government considers adults between the ages of 18-21 as minors and require heavier penalties for sales to these patients.
Lynch called the DEA before opening his dispensary and a special agent told Lynch, "It's up to the cities and counties to decide how to handle that [medical marijuana dispensary] matter".
Lynch worked closely with city and county officials. He joined the Chamber of Commerce and had the Morro Bay Mayor, Janice Peters, and City Attorney, Rob Schultz, testify on his behalf as a law-abiding citizen.
Lynch's case gained national attention after Reason foundation's the Drew Carey's Project created a Reason.tv episode featuring Lynch and Owen Beck, a former seventeen year old student athlete who had his leg amputated to keep his bone cancer from spreading. Beck's parents accompanied him on all his visits to Lynch's medical cannabis dispensary as his business license requirements enforced for minors.
Al Roker interviewed Lynch for a MSNBC show called "An Hour on Marijuana" scheduled to air March 15th. In addition, John Stossel from ABC's 20/20 interviewed Lynch and his Federal Public Defenders for an episode called "Bullsh*t in America" scheduled to air March 13th at 10pm eastern standard time.
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