An Oakland man who went to state court this week to mount a medical
defense to marijuana charges was instead handed over to federal
authorities, who have filed charges that could put him and a
co-defendant behind bars for the rest of their lives.

David Davidson, 52, an Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative member, and
Cynthia Blake, 53, of Red Bluff, are to be arraigned today by U.S.
Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows of Sacramento.

They're charged with manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants and
conspiracy to cultivate more than 1,000 marijuana plants. The former
is punishable by five to 40 years in federal prison; the latter by a
mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life.

William Dolphin, spokes-man for Berkeley-based Americans for Safe
Access, said Davidson and Blake are a couple, and he was at her home
when police raided it July 29, seizing a few dozen marijuana plants.
Information gained in that raid provided police probable cause for a
warrant to search Davidson's Oakland home, where more marijuana was
found.

Davidson and Blake both have doctor's recommendations to use marijuana
as medicine, as required by state law, and Oakland Cannabis Buyers
Cooperative medical director Dr. Michael Alcalay went to Tehama County
Superior Court in Corning on Tuesday to testify on Davidson's behalf.

But Tehama County assistant District Attorney Lynn Strom unexpectedly
announced the state would drop its charges against the pair, and she
and the pair's lawyers went into a judge's chambers to discuss why.

When they did, Tehama County Sheriff's deputies -- acting on federal
authority under a local-federal drug task force's auspices -- arrested
the pair on the federal charges, issued last week by a grand jury in
Sacramento.

Americans for Safe Access is urging activists to stage demonstrations
at noon today outside federal office buildings to protest the arrests,
which ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer called "utterly
outrageous."

Sherer cited a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last month
that found federal officials should be temporarily barred from
treating California medical marijuana patients as criminals. "And now
they are tricking defense attorneys to separate them from their
clients. How many rights have to be trampled before we fix this?"


Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jan 2004
Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2004 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Contact: triblet@angnewspapers.com
Website: http://www.oaklandtribune.com/