Pubdate: Sat, 07 Aug 2004
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Claire Cooper, Bee Legal Affairs Writer
Bookmark: (Bryan Epis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


San Francisco - A federal judge in Sacramento was ordered Friday to
release Bryan James Epis from prison while the U.S. Supreme Court
weighs the fate of state-sanctioned medical marijuana cooperatives
that operate wholly within California.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told U.S. District Judge Frank
C. Damrell Jr. to set bail terms for the co-founder of Chico Medical
Marijuana Caregivers and to handle the proceedings on an expedited

Through his lawyer, Brenda Grantland, Epis said he was ecstatic. He
thanked "literally thousands" of supporters.

Epis has been serving a 10-year term at the federal prison at Terminal
Island outside Los Angeles since his 2002 conviction on federal
marijuana conspiracy charges. Damrell instructed jurors to disregard
evidence of medical use sanctioned by California's medical marijuana
initiative, Proposition 215.

While Epis' appeal of his conviction to the 9th Circuit was pending,
that court ruled in a separate case from Oakland that federal
authorities have no power to go after noncommericial medical marijuana
operations confined within the state. Epis' appeal raises the same

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled a review of the Oakland decision
during its next term. If it agrees with the 9th Circuit, Epis said
Friday that he will be permitted "at a minimum" to present a full
medical defense to a new jury.

Last month, the 9th Circuit issued an order putting Epis' case on
hold, pending the high court's decision. The 9th Circuit's bail order
Friday came in the form of a one-sentence amendment.

The U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento said it had not reviewed the
9th Circuit's new order and therefore could not comment. The federal
prosecutor argued in court that Epis' conviction for growing more than
1,000 marijuana plants indicated commercial involvement. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake