Chico, Calif., Medical Marijuana Advocate Convicted of Illegally Growing Marijuana
A federal jury in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday convicted Bryan James Epis of "illegally growing marijuana he said was for medical use," the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Epis helped establish and supply Chico Medical Marijuana Caregivers, a cannabis buyers' club. Prosecutors argued in the case that Epis planned to grow as many as 1,000 marijuana plants for profit, and that this production was illegal under federal law. However, he argued that he planned to grow marijuana "only to help sick people with doctors' recommendations, in compliance with state law" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/12). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996, patients with chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS can use medical marijuana to treat pain. However, federal law prohibits cultivation, distribution or possession of marijuana (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). Epis faces a sentence of at least 10 years in prison (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/12). "This trial is an emblem of injustice. ... When compassionate providers are jailed because they work to improve the lives of desperately sick people, we have a real crisis in our democracy," Steph Sherer, executive director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said. Hundreds of medical marijuana supporters yesterday held a rally and march asking California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) to "defend" medical marijuana users in the state from incarceration (Americans for Safe Access release, 7/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.