Who Needs Jury Nullification?


Yesterday a federal judge sentenced three men to one year of probation for running the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, which was shut down by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2001. Scott Imler, Jeffrey Farrington, and Jeff Yablin, who pleaded guilty to maintaining a place for the purpose of manufacturing, possessing, or distributing marijuana, could have received prison sentences of two and a half years each. U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz based his decision on the doctrine that "a defendant may commit a crime in order to avoid a perceived greater harm"–in this case, the marijuana-alleviated symptoms of patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other diseases.

Matz not only declined to impose prison sentences; he rebuked the DEA and the Justice Department for pursuing the case against Imler et al. "To allocate the resources of the [DEA] and the U.S. Attorney's Office in this case…baffles me, disturbs me," he said, calling the prosecution "badly misguided."

The decision is reminiscent of the one-day sentence that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer imposed last June on Ed Rosenthal for growing medical marijuana in Oakland. It seems federal judges in California are revolting against the Justice Department's crackdown on medical marijuana.


NEXT: Fear of the People

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  1. God dern liberal judges!!!!

  2. Its times like this I am glad I have a “to-intimidate” list.

  3. But..but…think of the children?! The chiilllddrruuunnnn!!!

  4. I never thought I’d see a federal judge support terrorism in such a shameless way.

  5. judicial fiat! why can’t we all just do what the democratically elected legislators decide is best for us.

  6. This topic title reminds me of when a Bengals player got penalized recently for excessive celebration in the end zone.
    I mean, we have just a few judges barely scratching the surface in recognizing the damage caused by the wod.

  7. Has anyone seen the anti-Pot TV commercial where a child is about to fall into a pool, and the voiceover reads: “Just tell her parents that you were too busy getting stoned to watch their daughter”?

    To me, that’s not an anti-Pot commercial as much as it’s a commercial recommending that you not leave your child with fuckin’ idiots.

  8. Charlie Breyer?

    Heck, he used to roll the tightest joints in the dorm back in Yale. Is he still puffin?

  9. Maybe the outlook via the WoD is improving? I mean, in the ’90s we had Clinton who “didn’t inhale” (WTF, dude that’s just a waste) and now we have Bush who used to be cokehead and admits it.

    If our past 2 presidents have admitting to using drugs in the past, then maybe – just maybe – they aren’t the automatic life-ruiners that they’re made out to be? I mean if one can use drugs and go on to lead the free-frickin’-world, then… What was I just talking about?

  10. This still strikes me as far short of jury nullification. After all, the judge let the convictions stand. OTOH, I don’t know offhand if a trial judge has the authority to overturn convictions unilaterally.

  11. “Has anyone seen the anti-Pot TV commercial where a child is about to fall into a pool, and the voiceover reads: “Just tell her parents that you were too busy getting stoned to watch their daughter”?”

    SinC: Actually, I view that commercial as ground breaking because it does not deliver the message, “Don’t smoke pot”, but rather delivers a harm reduction message:

    “If you’re going to smoke pot, don’t do it right before you have to babysit or other employment”.

  12. “WTF, dude that’s just a waste”

    He just wanted to pass around his germs!!

  13. “This still strikes me as far short of jury nullification. After all, the judge let the convictions stand. OTOH, I don’t know offhand if a trial judge has the authority to overturn convictions unilaterally.”

    If you remember correctly, this is the case where the defense was not permitted to disclose the fact that the defendants were acting within the local and state laws of California, and with express consent of thier local law enforcement and city council. The federal prosecutors used every sly trick in the book to prevent the defense from being able to properly defend the defendants.

    After the jury returned the verdict of guilty they were informed of the full circumstances of the case and almost 100% of the jury felt that the US Government manipulated thier verdict. This on its face does not constitute a mistrial, the only way that a judge can reverse a jury desicion. The judge in this type of trial has 2 roles, to preside over the precedings to insure that both sides play by the rules, and to administer punishment following the verdict. The judge cannot unilaterly overturn the verdict no matter how unjust he/she feels the verdict is. This would undermine the entire system.

    To further complicate things the US Justice Department have strict sentancing guidelines for drug related cases, which by federal law the judge must adhere to.

    The judge in this case did everything in his power to do the right thing, the year probation is the minimum sentance he could impose in this case, and without adding any monitary fines or further stipulations, short of having a federal felony conviction, the defendants recived a very light sentance compared to what the US government was asking. (prison time, hefty fines in the 10s of thousands)

    Couple that with the very strict wording of the opinion, I believe this is a major victory…. if your into that fight

  14. The DEA is being hypocritical. If they’re truly concerned about that child who falls into the pool they would ban alcohol, cell phones, video games, and anything else that might distract the babysitter.

  15. Of course they’re (the ONDCP actually, not the DEA) not concerned about the child falling into the pool. All they are concerned with is blocking the truth that marijuana can be used responsibly. In their world, all pot use leads to dead babies, pregnant teenagers, kids pointing loaded handguns at one another and pulling the trigger, etc.

    The implied message of the medical marijuana prohibition is just as ludicrous. John Walters tells us, “Marijuana may make you feel better, but that’s not how we judge the efficacy of medicine.”

  16. Steve, is that a literal quote of John Walters? I have use for it if it is, and if you can tell me where you got it.

  17. These prohibition commericials really harsh my mellow. They are propoganda at its worst.

    I love that one with the guy who apparently killed his younger brother in an auto accident. Where to start?

    One thing, they are obviously blaming an object instead of irresponsible behavior. Another, and perhaps others can shed more light on this, but when they say “X% of those tested positive for drugs (in an auto accident) test positive for marijuana” are they conveniently excluding the presence of OTHER drugs, such as alchohol? How the hell can they get away with these half-truths, distortions, and outright lies?

    (Oh, BTW, if you look closely at the guy in the commercial, he looks baked to bejeezus)

  18. ^Oh, I forgot to mention as well.. when you smoke THC stays in your system many days after the affect wears off.. so if they test you you can come up “positive”, even though you may be stone sober. God, this is such bullshit.

  19. Question.

    Premise: there is a drug law of some sort on the books.

    Is it better to have a drug law on the books that is selectively enforced, thereby keeping some innocent people free, or is it better to have a drug law on the books that is draconian and enforced against white surburban kids to point out how idiotic the whole premise is?

    I really like this judge’s thinking, but sometimes I wonder if this sort of thing doesn’t prolong the agony and grant yet more discretionary authority to the Powers that Be.

  20. Do one better: at the arraignment, judge asks “Are you the executive director of the cannabis club?”


    Gavel. “Continued without a finding for 10 years. Call the next case.”

  21. Mona,

    I know he’s said that, or similar words numerous times. One direct similar quote I have (from his recent appearance on C-Span:

    “And there’s no question, some people who are sick, and smoke marijuana feel better. They would feel better if they took crack. They would feel better if they had a hit of heroin. The issue is not “feeling” it’s one of efficacy and safety.”

    I have more about that appearance, including some more quotes here.

    Steve may have references for you as well.

    – Pete

  22. While this news brightened my day — it really isn’t the way things should be done.

    This is a war that should be fought in the Legislative branch, not the Judicial branch.

    This WoD is draining our national coffers as quickly as it is reducing our national liberties.

    As Abe Lincoln would say “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    The cure is for Americans to accept who we are, and to codify that acceptance into legislation.

  23. As a middle aged woman I am so offended by that commercial about the baby falling in the pool! I know that really happens, but to SOBER parents! Kids are fast. As a matter of fact I bet it never happened to a stoned babysitter…..you know most pot smokers wait till after work, or anything of responsibility to have their puff, I sure do … and I agree with the other posters it does make the parents look really stupid …and its the parents responsibility anyway. Do you think it makes any teenage babysitter think on it? besides where is the required fence around that pool! Stupid careless parents not thinking of safty! its not the pots fault that parents do dumb things. I have seen the damage alcohol does to people and it tears apart families damaging the children, emotionally scaring them for life. Pot on the other hand I have only seen make people a bit pudgie and quiet. oh and thank god it helps with neasea

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