CA NORML News
The CMRC provided medical recommendations and legal consultations for over 6,000 Prop. 215 patients in California. The government is now holding all of their records for further investigation.
DEA agents also seized 33 plants and processed marijuana belonging to Dr. Fry, who is herself a breast cancer patient. Dr. Fry says that she and her 14-year-old son were thrown to the ground at gunpoint and handcuffed while agents ransacked their house.
No charges have been filed yet, pending further investigation. The government has indicated that it is interested in prosecuting Fry and Schafer, not their patients. It contends that the couple helped patients obtain marijuana in violation of federal law by selling recommendations as well as cultivating and distributing it from their garden.
Schafer admits that he provided marijuana for some sixty patients prior to the Supreme Court decision, acting in the capacity of a legal Prop. 215 caregiver. He says that he supplied it free to those who were poor and charged $80 per ounce (one-fourth the regular black market price) to the others to pay for the costs of a gardener.
Although the U.S. district court in San Francisco has issued an injunction barring the DEA from going after physicians for recommending marijuana, the order does not apply to cases involving manufacture or distribution. Also, Attorney General Ashcroft has appealed the injunction to the Ninth Circuit in the hopes of opening up yet more federal prosecutions of doctors.
A federal court denied a motion by defense attorney J. David Nick to have the CMRC's records returned, ruling that they were not protected by attorney-client or physician-patient privilege. U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell overruled an order by U.S. Magistrate Gregory Holllows that the records first be reviewed by an independent special master to screen out personal medical information in the patients' files. Burrell ruled that the government could review all of the information it pleased, insofar as there was no indication that the CMRC was engaged in any lawful business. Defense attorney J. David Nick has appealed Burrell's ruling to the Ninth Circuit.
The detention of Fry's records has jeopardized the legal status of her many patients. Some law enforcement officers have refused to honor her recommendations because she no longer has her files to confirm them.
The federal investigation of the CMRC had its origins in another, sizable cultivation case last year involving former employees and patients of Fry and Schafer. One of them turned informant and claimed that the couple were selling marijuana. The government put their office under electronic surveillance, and claims to have got a recording in which Dr. Fry told patients they could buy clones for $5. However, agents were turned down when they tried to buy pot from the center.
U.S. prosecutor Anne Pings described the CMRC as a criminal enterprise, permeated with fraud." However, Schafer and Fry insist that they were trying their best to comply with state law. Schafer says he consulted with the Attorney General's office and the Medical Board before opening the CMRC, although they were unable to offer concrete guidelines. The center opened in 1999 and attracted a large clientele through advertising and the Internet (www.cannabisdoctor.com). Schafer says the CMRC enjoyed a good relationship with El Dorado County narcotics deputies, who told him they would not have raided it except for federal orders.
"This is so much bigger than medical marijuana," says Dr. Fry, "The voters of California passed this law by referendum and have every right to expect it would be respected."