California medical marijuana activists are outraged over the arrest last
week of two medical marijuana patients who face potential life sentences
on federal drug charges after being turned over by local authorities.
David Davidson, of Oakland, California, and his partner Cynthia Blake,
of Red Bluff, California, were arrested in a state courtroom in Corning,
California on January 13 as they were seeking to dismiss state charges
of marijuana cultivation and distribution.

Davidson and Blake, both 53, have doctor's recommendations to grow and
consume medical marijuana under California's 1996 Compassionate Use Act
(Prop. 215). While their defense attorneys were meeting in the judge's
chambers to discuss the case with Tehama County assistant district
attorney Lynn Strom, Strom announced that she was dropping the state
charges because Davidson and Blake were being arrested in the courtroom
on a federal indictment.

One of the major flaws of California's medical marijuana law is that it
does not specify how many plants a patient can grow or how much
marijuana they can possess. Each county or city sets its own guidelines
and law enforcement around the state has widely ranging interpretations
of how much marijuana patients should have.

The Sacramento U.S. Attorneys office did not return calls seeking
comment on the case. But Tehama County assistant district attorney
Jonathan Skillman argues that Davidson and Blake were growing too much
medical marijuana for their personal use. Skillman said prosecutors came
to this conclusion after a raid on Davidson and Blake's homes allegedly
netted 1,803 plants and over 60 pounds of "processed marijuana."

"He had plans to supply the entire West Coast," Stillman claimed. "It is
not in the realm of peronal use."

But Davidson says prosecutors inflated the number of plants seized,
which he says is reflected in the charges. He and Blake have been
charged with manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants and conspiracy
to cultivate more than 1,000 marijuana plants. The first charge carries
a five- to 40-year prison sentence. The second is punishable by a
mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.

Davidson said Cynthia Blake was growing 33 plants when the Tehama County
sheriff's deputies raided her home in July. Skillman acknowledges that
the county has no official plant limit for medical marijuana patients.
But prosecutors used this information to secure a warrant to raid
Davidson's house in Oakland, where he said he grew about 400 plants,
mostly single leaf cuttings. Oakland patients are permitted by local
ordinance to grow 72 mature plants and 32 square feet of marijuana
garden canopy.

In last year's highly publicized federal case of Oakland medical
marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal, jurors declined to include cuttings in
the count of mature plants. As with that case, Davidson and Blake will
likely be barred from arguing that their marijuana was for medical
purposes since federal law does not recognized Prop. 215.

*'A Spiteful Investigation'*

Davidson contends that his lawyers were winning his case in state court,
which prompted Strom to turn it over to the federal prosecutors.

Skillman denies this charge and says there was nothing improper about
how Davidson and Blake were arrested. Davidson disagrees.

"Our attorneys were lured into the judge's chambers and as soon as the
doors were closed, the deputies took us in a car as fast as they could
all the way to Sacramento where we spent four hours chained in the
county jail and held 24 hours before we could speak to counsel,"
Davidson said. "Now I'm facing 10 to 15 years in prison and I'm 53 years
old. It's unbelievable."

Steph Sherer, executive director of the national medical marijuana
coalition, Americans for Safe Access, disputed the allegation that
Davidson and Blake possessed 60 pounds of processed marijuana. Sherer
says discovery in the case indicates that prosecutors weighed sticks,
stems, leaf cuttings and even root balls to arrive at the 60-pound
figure - a tactic employed by some investigators to inflate the weight
of seized marijuana.

"This appears to be a spiteful investigation on behalf of the DA, paid
for by the taxpayers of California, and if Strom would like to keep her
job, she should respect the laws of the state," said Sherer. "If she did
not believe this was a medical case she should have taken it to state
court, and not handed over two citizens of California to the federal
government for a 10-year mandatory sentence."

Sherer adds that Davidson and Blake's cases fall under a recent ruling
by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that if the
marijuana is not purchased, transported across state lines, or used
non-medically, the federal government has no jurisdiction to prosecute
medical marijuana patients in California and other states.

Davidson, who says he's never been arrested or sold marijuana, is
currently free on a $50,000 federal and $20,000 state bail, as is Clark.

"I've worked my whole life as a retail business owner and I was set for
semi-retirement and now I'm ruined," Davidson says. "I am nearly flat
broke and I will be before this is done."

/Ann Harrison <mailto:ah@well.com> is a freelance reporter working in
the Bay Area./


*By Ann Harrison, AlterNet <http://www.alternet.org>*
January 17, 2004