10-Year Medical Marijuana Sentence Upheld

May 3, 2009 - In an unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence of Bryan Epis on charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland, says she will appeal for an en banc rehearing of the ruling by the full Ninth Circuit.

Epis was the first California medical marijuana patient to be prosecuted on federal charges. He was arrested in 1997, shortly after the passage of Prop. 215, while growing for a Chico patients' group. He was sentenced to 10 years for conspiring to grow over 1,000 plants - over a period of several harvests - in his Chico home.

Epis's attorney, Brenda Grantland, appealed his sentence to the Ninth Circuit on various grounds, including egregious prosecutorial misconduct, improper cross examination, improper denial of safety-valve relief from the mandatory minimum, and the unclarity of the law at the time of his arrest. The panel did not bother to hold an oral hearing, but issued an 11-page ruling denying the appeal.

The panel included the infamous Judge Jay Bybee, recently indicted as an international war criminal by Spain for having authored the DOJ's notorious torture memos. Bybee was appointed before knowledge of his advocacy of illegal conduct by government agents became public. See a petition to impeach Judge Bybee by MoveOn.org

Other judges on the panel were Hawkins ( a former federal prosecutor), and Rawlinson.
Epis' supporters expressed shock at the opinion. California NORML denounced the decision as "an egregious miscarriage of justice with no conceivable benefit to the public."

- Dale Gieringer, Cal NORML