Truth in Trials Bill — So Necessary

Congressmen Push Truth in Trials Bill

The two principal co-sponsors of federal legislation to allow a medical defense in federal marijuana trials are pushing for action on the bill. Reps. Sam Farr (D, CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA) have sent a letter to Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D, MI), chair of the Judiciary Committee, requesting immediate hearings.

The Congressmen sent the letter after getting word from Americans for Safe Access about the continuing plight of medical cannabis patients and caregivers facing trial in California and elsewhere. ASA National staff worked closely with the Congressmen’s offices to help draft the letter.

“Congress cannot keep ignoring the growing divide between state medical cannabis laws and rigid federal prohibition,” said ASA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson. “We can’t bridge that divide by prosecuting suffering citizens who are doing nothing more than following their doctor’s advice in compliance with state law. We need legislation.”

The Truth in Trials Act (H.R. 3939) would allow individuals facing federal prosecution for marijuana-related offenses to provide evidence during trial that their activities were legal under their state medical canna-bis program. Federal medical cannabis defendants are barred from presenting any evidence of medical conditions, doctors’ recommendations, or state law, virtually ensuring their conviction. Caregivers and providers are particularly vulnerable, as harsh sentencing guidelines established for drug traffickers typically mean long mandatory federal prison sentences.

President Obama promised on the campaign trail to end federal interference with state medical cannabis programs, a position echoed by his attorney general, Eric Holder. But the memo issued by the Department of Justice did not establish a defense for patients facing charges, nor does it forbid federal agents from making arrests or stop prosecutors from bringing charges. Meanwhile, 14 states and the District of Columbia have established laws governing the use and possession of medical cannabis.

Caught in the middle are people such as James Stacy, a San Diego martial arts expert who uses cannabis to treat injuries and the nausea he’s suffered since losing his gall bladder. Stacy decided to open a patient collective adjacent to his dojo after researching the law and new policy. But that didn’t stop federal agents from raiding him last September, or prosecutors from indicting him on multiple felony counts.

“I’m the most follow-the-rules kind of guy around, so I thought I was the perfect guy to do it,” Stacy told a local paper. “When the collective was open, I’d have days where we’d turn away as many as 10 people who didn’t have the proper paperwork.”

Stacy asked the judge in his case for permission to tell the jury about the new federal policy and the steps he took to ensure his compliance with state law. The motion was denied, and Stacy goes to trial this month. The other medical cannabis defendant facing charges as the result of the September raids in San Diego took a plea bargain under the threat of a long prison term. At bail hearings, federal prosecutors told the court Stacy faces potential life imprisonment.

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