Medical Marijuana Activist Retains Legal Dream Team to Represent Him on Federal Assault Charges
Medical marijuana activist Jose Gutierrez was brutally arrested in April as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided Blue Sky, one of Oakland’s four allowed dispensaries. Mr. Gutierrez is facing federal assault charges and will appear in court on August 1st at 2:30pm. He has retained J. Tony Serra to lead his defense team, which also includes E.D. Lerman and Omar Figueroa.
J. Tony Serra was named one of the “ten best criminal defense attorneys of the century” in 2000 by the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
Gutierrez was arrested April 2nd during the raid on the Oaksterdam district of Oakland, and Serra says he “believes the federal government acted outrageously in both their attack and their hostile arrest of Mr. Gutierrez.”
His other attorneys spoke out as well. Figueroa said, “Mr. Gutierrez was exercising his First Amendment rights by speaking out against federal officials engaged in nullifying California law and ignoring the will of the People of California. He was targeted because of his activism and idealistic and passionate views opposing the federal prohibition of cannabis for medical use.”
”The police in this case were derelict in their duties and failed to properly execute this search warrant,” said Mr. Serra. “Their lack of preparation, communication and control led to Jose Gutierrez being the victim of an unnecessary and brutal attack, and he committed no crime.”
Ms. Lerman believes that Mr. Gutierrez is “an innocent man shoved like a domino in a crowd of unpleased protestors and overzealous federal agents.”
When faced with serious charges, there is nothing better than having good lawyers on your side, and it looks like Mr. Gutierrez is well-covered in that area. And a victory for him will send a message to law enforcement around the country that they are not invincible; even the powerful DEA.
DEAs Cannabis Crop Seizures Down 35 Percent from Year Before
According to statistics provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), drug seizures dropped by 35% between 2010 and 2011.
Data for the year 2011 shows that about 6.7 million cannabis plants were eradicated nationwide under the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, which is active in all 50 states. This represents the lowest total of plants eradicated since 2006, and is a 35% decrease from 2010, when the DEA reported eradicating roughly 10.3 million marijuana plants.
Most of the drop comes from California, where 7.4 million plants were destroyed in 2010 and only 4 million were destroyed in 2011. About 60% of all plants eradicated come from CA.
According to a July 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund under President Barack Obama is the largest on record, going from $500 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2011. The fund paid out about $79 million to California law enforcement agencies alone for their participation in federal raids and seizures.
And this is what it all comes down to: money. The DEA needs these seizures to justify their budget, and they need money with which to bribe locals to cooperate.
So what accounts for the drop? Is less marijuana being grown? Prices are not rising noticeably, so probably not. The only other answer is that the DEA is getting worse at its job – or corrupt agents are keeping more for themselves and not reporting it.
Either way, less cannabis plants being destroyed is a good thing. It means there is more medicine out there for those who need it, whatever reason they use it for. It means more people are learning the art of growing as well as the art of concealment.
It means cannabis cannot be completely eradicated, no matter how much money is spent.
Condescending Assistant Professor Talks Down to Anyone Who Dares to Choose Cannabis
Kevin Sabet is an assistant professor at The University of Florida – I know, I’ll let a moment pass for the magnitude of the power and prestige that title carries to sink in – recently wrote a condescending and short-sighted op-ed in The Huffington Post about what a “sad joke” medical marijuana is in CA.
“The typical scene of a ‘dispensary’ involves 300-pound bouncers guarding tinted doors,” he writes, “inside of which are 21-year-old kids giving medical advice and medicine called ‘Purple Haze’ to anyone with a pulse. Homicides, increased youth drug use, property and neighborhood crime and advertising to kids have all become a part of doing business. Today's dispensaries -- really pot shops selling the drug under the guise of medicine -- bear little resemblance to voters' intent.”
By the way, he offers no links baking up these claims, although he does reference a single study that says the average medical marijuana patient is 32 and white and is not dying.
Image he wasn’t talking this way about medical marijuana users. What if he was offering sweeping generalizations about black people? Or Hispanics? Or the elderly? You get the point. This type of public, blatant bigotry is reserved for few groups.
With thousands of dispensaries in CA alone, what are the odds that most of them even vaguely resemble what Mr. assistant professor portrays? In fact, what are the odds that a assistant professor in FLORDIA knows anything about dispensaries in L.A.?
“The City Council should be commended for taking a courageous stance against these store fronts, and catching up with popular opinion,” he says of his fellow bigots who comprise the L.A. City Council. Popular opinion? Has this man seen just how popular medical marijuana is nationwide in every poll?
You are on the wrong side of history, Mr. Sabet.
US War on Drugs Moves to Africa
The U.S. government is so impressed with its stunning drug war failures in Latin America that it’s planning on exporting their tactics even farther afield, to the continent of Africa.
This is quite a policy change from the ones President Obama espoused as a candidate. Now at The White House it seems as though the focus is shifting away from the War on Terror and toward the War on Drugs. And the war is expanding from Latin America to Africa, both locales emerging as powerful hubs for drug cartels.
And it will continue to expand as the U.S. fights an unwinnable war. Inflated drug profits caused by prohibition will ensure a never-ending supply of people entering the black market to sell.
I’m sure an increased military presence is very tempting to the military-industrial complex; it means even bigger budgets for defense spending, more power and influence, and the appearance of fighting crime when all they are really doing is wasting money on expensive toys.
Many are disappointed in President Obama and his willingness to turn his back on the things he said in the past and embrace the policies of warmongers like George W. Bush.
I-502 in Washington State gets $1.25 Million in New Donations
Initiative 502, the marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Washington State this fall will be able to buy a major TV ad campaign for the measure thanks to some $1.25 million in new donations, including a $450,000 donation from Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis.
The donations will buy a $1 million TV-ad blitz in August, before other campaigns saturate the airwaves, according to I-502 campaign manager Alison Holcomb.
I-502 would legalize possession and sale of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would impose up to a 75 percent excise tax on marijuana and cannabis-infused products at new state-licensed marijuana stores, and would allow state-regulated grow farms to operate.
Some oppose I-502 because of the excise tax.
The excise taxes imposed by I-502 would dramatically increase costs on patients, says Philip Dawdy, who is organizing opposition to the measure, but is someone who has previously fought for marijuana law reform in the state.
"I-502 made a serious miscalculation," said Dawdy. "They calculated that getting the votes of soccer moms were more important than medical-marijuana patients."
While legalization and regulation are sure to bring down the inflated prohibition-era price of marijuana, some states surrounding Washington will still have the marijuana black market in place and thriving, and those markets will get some supply from legal Washington cannabis, keeping prices artificially high. A 75% increase on top of this for taxes could indeed make marijuana even more expensive than it is now.
In which case, the black market will survive in Washington as well, as drug dealers will be able to sell marijuana cheaper, without the tax.
Others donating to the I-502 campaign include travel guru Rick Steves, who gave $250,000 and who had previously donated $100,000; and the ACLU of Washington, who gave $100,000.
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