Tips on Providing Court Support in Marijuana Cases

Northern California defense attorney Joseph Tully has posted some useful tips on how to show support in the courtroomCourtroom when someone is facing marijuana-related charges.
According to Tully, whose website highlights his experience defending medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, cultivators, and caregivers:
Being tried in court for any crime, especially a victimless crime, is a trying process. Not just for the defendants, but for their friends, family, and supporters as well.  When the crime involves medical marijuana in California, it is often the defendant who is victimized.  Community support is important to help a friend get through this difficult time and to support the larger cause. ...
What are the best ways to support both the cause and our friends at the courthouse? I have lots of experience as a criminal defense attorney in the courtroom.  My courthouse advice for my clients can apply to their friends and supporters as well.  Here are six ways you can show support during a medical marijuana case.
You can read Tully’s full post, “Weed on Trial: 6 Ways to Show Support in Court,” after the jump.

Weed on Trial: 6 Ways to Show Support in Court
By Joseph Tully
Being tried in court for any crime, especially a victimless crime, is a trying process. Not just for the defendants, but for their friends, family, and supporters as well.  When the crime involves medical marijuana in California, it is often the defendant who is victimized.  Community support is important to help a friend get through this difficult time and to support the larger cause.
As a supporter, you may want to argue or shout or rant around the courthouse about the injustice.  But remember that the Defendant is fighting for their life and livelihood.  THEY are the focus of the trial.  Cannabis rights are important to fight for, but in court we do that by exonerating the defendants.  The verdict will set the tone for how Law Enforcement or the District Attorney pursues future cases.  DA's will not prosecute future cases they know they won't win.
What are the best ways to support both the cause and our friends at the courthouse? I have lots of experience as a criminal defense attorney in the courtroom.  My courthouse advice for my clients can apply to their friends and supporters as well.  Here are six ways you can show support during a medical marijuana case.
1.     Be Presentable. A trial is a serious thing for all parties, and your attire will show that you also take it seriously. Clean, tidy, and put together. You don't need to wear a suit, but wear something you'd consider nice for your day to day.  It will not help your cause if you show up like you are camping in Humboldt.
2.     Be Quiet. As a defendant, you should only speak when addressing the court. As a spectator, you should be absolutely silent throughout the proceedings. Even in the halls and on the steps, keep your voice down and discussion to a minimum, since there are ears everywhere. One careless whisper could be overheard and sink the case.  The line "anything you say can and will be used against you" is not TV cop jive. Be especially cautious not to talk around jurors or potential jurors. In court we avoid even the “appearance” of impropriety.
3.     Be Present. Some parts of a trial can feel tedious to a defendant or spectator. My advice is: if it is important enough for you to be here today, then it should be important enough for you to keep your head in the trial. No sleeping, reading, texting, note passing, or knitting. Your degree of focus on the trial reflects your regard for its importance.
4.     Be Respectful. The courthouse is a workplace for hundreds of people.  There are also scores of people there for their own cases. 90% of the people at the courthouse are worried about their own cases and are oblivious to yours.  There are victims, jurors, social workers, clerks, and other people focused on their own issues.  Respect their reality by not intruding yours on to them.  This includes keeping your voice down, turning off phones, not smoking on the grounds, and not blocking doors and hallways.
5.     Be Careful. You and your friends might be chill, but a courthouse is full of violent people on edge. There are convicts and cops who are keyed up in this environment. There are also bad people seeking revenge on other bad people, and bad people seeking revenge on good people. Keep your eyes open and be wary of commotion.
6.     Be Thoughtful.  A trial can be personally overwhelming for a defendant.  Offer your friend support outside the courthouse.  Bring them a coffee. Offer to drive their kids to school. Pick up their dry cleaning for them. Small gestures of support for everyday things will help a defendant deal with the stress of the big things.
It is your right to smoke, shout, and rally for legalized marijuana, and I would defend your right to do it. But when a friend is on trial, the courthouse is not the most effective venue to demonstrate those rights.  Supporting a victory for the defendant will advance the cause as well as save your friend's life and liberty.
There are many organizations that support the rights of marijuana patients, as well as their caregivers, collectives, and cultivators. One in particular, The Human Solution, organizes courtroom support for defendants. Check for a chapter in your area and any actions they have planned.
Joseph Tully is a criminal defense attorney at Tully & Weiss based in Northern California. He has experience defending medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, cultivators, and caregivers on trial for helping their patients.

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Medical Marijuana

Presidential Hopeful Tim Pawlenty Offers No Hope for Medical Marijuana

On Monday, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced his decision to run for President of the United States. This should have been cause for concern for marijuana reformers and medical marijuana patients, and today that concern was justified.

Gov. Pawlenty has been no friend to marijuana reform in the past. In 2009, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed only terminally ill Minnesotans to use marijuana to ease their pain in their final days. Even though this bill was narrowly tailored to address the concerns of law enforcement, Pawlenty vetoed it regardless, citing... further law enforcement concerns.

This is the same guy who supported a court decision that could have made possession of bong water a felony.

Given this disturbing behavior, and the damage that an anti-marijuana zealot in the White House could do to all the progress we have made in the last few years, we decided to find out if T-Paw still feels the same about the issue.

He does.

After speaking today at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. on such subjects as limited government, federal interference in health care, and saving taxpayer money, MPP’s Bob Capecchi asked the former governor how he could justify vetoing the Minnesota medical marijuana bill, given his stances on these issues.

Pawlenty dodged these obvious inconsistencies completely, and deferred to his standard rhetoric.

“Marijuana? Yeah,” Pawlenty said. “Well... I stood with law enforcement on this issue. We just have a respectful difference on this issue."

He also mentioned that law enforcement have pretty serious concerns about medical marijuana. Is one of those concerns losing the ability to waste taxpayer money arresting sick people? This difference of opinion doesn’t seem respectful to seriously ill people, let alone to ideological consistency or integrity.

Marijuana reform could become a huge issue during the next presidential election. It is important that we keep putting pressure on candidates to clearly state their position on the issue, and to hold them accountable for that stance in the polls. We need to confront every candidate at every opportunity! Some of us are sure to get chances to question the candidates prior to the election, so let’s use them!

Please send any video of candidates answering such questions to

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Medical Marijuana

Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Gun Rights for Patients

Back in January, this blog mentioned a case in which an anti-marijuana sheriff in Jackson County, Oregon, was trying to deny the renewal of a concealed handgun permit for Cynthia Willis, a licensed medical marijuana patient. The sheriff was so adamant about the case that he took it all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. His primary argument was that granting a concealed handgun license to a patient (or in his terms, drug user) would be a violation of the Federal Gun Control Act. This law makes it illegal for anyone using or possessing an illegal drug to own or use a firearm. And of course, the federal government still considers marijuana in any form to be illegal.

Today, the court ruled unanimously that being a medical marijuana patient does not strip a person of his or her constitutional rights, at least as far as state law is concerned. From the court’s opinion:

Congress did not directly require the states to use their gun licensing mechanisms for the purpose of keeping guns out of the hands of marijuana users, and we conclude that Congress did not intend to achieve that same result by making it illegal for medical marijuana users to possess guns. The state's decision not to use its gun licensing mechanism as a means of enforcing federal law does not pose an obstacle to the enforcement of that law. Federal officials can effectively enforce the federal prohibition on gun possession by marijuana users by arresting and turning over for prosecution those who violate it.

Ultimately, then, we reject the sheriffs' contention that, to the extent that ORS 166.291 requires county sheriffs to issue CHLs to qualified applicants without regard to their use of medical marijuana, the statute is preempted by the federal prohibition on gun possession by marijuana users at 18 USC section 922(g)(3). The sheriffs cannot justify their denial of the applications at issue on that ground.

Basically, this means that because the Oregon gun licensing law does not substantially interfere with the ability of federal officials to enforce their gun control law, Oregon’s law is not pre-empted and is valid. The sheriff, being a state law enforcement official, must abide by state law and issue canceled handgun licenses to anyone who qualifies under Oregon law, even if that individual wouldn’t qualify under the federal scheme. Because being a medical marijuana patient is not grounds for refusal of a permit in Oregon, the sheriff must grant Ms. Willis’s concealed handgun permit even though she would still be liable under federal law for having a gun while using “illicit narcotics.”

Sound familiar?

It should. Check out the case of Gonzalez v. Raich (2005), which established that the federal government is free to enforce their marijuana laws despite California’s right to exempt medical marijuana users and caregivers from state criminal liability.



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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

Jan 25, 2010 Kate Zawidzki

Brian Vicente, Colorado, court, workplace

“Can an employer punish someone for doing something that is constitutionally protected?”

That’s the question raised by a pair of articles in Colorado today that lay out the precarious work situation many medical marijuana patients find themselves in.

While the constitutional amendment that established medical marijuana in Colorado says that nothing “shall require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place,” the state also has a “Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute” that protects employees from being penalized for something they do outside of work that is legal. (Much of the problem arises from the fact that marijuana stays in people’s systems longer than other drugs, so even if patients aren’t using marijuana during work hours, they could still test positive.) Legal experts have disagreed as to which measure takes precedent.

Against this legal gray area, many medical marijuana patients—teachers, sports coaches, government employees, and nonprofit workers among them—have been faced with the very real prospect of losing their jobs, simply for taking a legitimate medicine that is legal under their own state law.

To add to the confusion, court decisions in other states, including California, have found that employers can fire workers who fail mandatory drug tests. If that same logic were applied in Colorado, any number of the estimated 30,000 medical marijuana patients in the state would have a real cause for concern.

“[The law has] been deciphered to mean that employers can fire a medical-marijuana patient for just about anything,” Brian Vicente, the executive director of Sensible Colorado, told the Denver Post. “Basically, it's a form of legalized discrimination against sick people who choose to use medical marijuana.”

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Minnesota court: Bong water considered an illegal drug

Oct 23, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

bong water, court, home search, Mike Meno, Minnesota

Yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that bong water can be considered a controlled substance, and that people caught in possession of said water can be prosecuted for possession of a drug mixture. Note: I am not making this up.

The ruling stemmed from a 2007 home search in which authorities seized, among other items, a glass bong containing about two-and-a-half tablespoons of water that tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.

So what does this mean? According to Judge Paul Anderson, who authored the dissenting opinion, if the bong water is considered a drug mixture, the crime is a first-degree drug offense, and a first-time offender could serve seven years and two months in prison. If the bong water were considered paraphernalia, the same offender would be given a $300 fine for a petty misdemeanor conviction that would not go on their record.

Seven years and two months. For bong water.

Read the decision here.

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