Pubdate: Sat, 05 Aug 2006
Source: CounterPunch (US Web)
Copyright: 2006 CounterPunch
Author: Fred Gardner
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Note: Fred Gardner is the editor of O'Shaughnessy's Journal of the
California Cannabis Research Medical Group.


"This is to keep Big Brother out of my exam room," says Philip A.
Denney, MD, explaining the civil suit that attorney Zenia Gilg filed
on his behalf Aug. 3 in the U.S. District Court for Eastern
California. Denney had been sent documents by a sympathizer revealing
that in the Fall of 2005, two individuals -an agent of the Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms Bureau, and an informer controlled by the Redding
Police Department-had obtained his approval to medicate with cannabis
by providing false histories.

The documents also made reference to a "DEA case number," apparently
from another investigation of his practice.

"Doctors have to trust their patients when taking a history," says
Denney. "Violating that trust has a chilling effect on my ability to
practice ethical and thorough medicine." Denney's suit claims that he
was a target of "an investigation involving the DEA acting under
Administrator Karen Tandy, ATF acting under director Carl J. Truscott,
Shasta County District Attorney Gerald Benito, the Shasta County
Sheriff's Department and Sheriff James Pope, the Redding Police
Department and Police Chief Leonard Moty," all of whom are named as
defendants. Denney says that the protections afforded doctors by the
First Amendment and upheld by a federal-court injunction in the Conant
v. Walters case have been ignored by the agencies named in the suit.

Earlier this year, when Denney first learned about and protested being lied
to by law-enforcement agents, Police Chief Moty and DA Benito contended
that it was incidental to their investigation of a local dispensary, Dixon
Herbs. As reported in the Redding Record-Searchlight: "The purpose of
visiting Denney's office, Redding police Chief Leonard Moty said, was to
obtain signed statements from a physician that could then be used to
purchase pot at Dixon Herbs. 'Many people use (the medicinal marijuana law)
as a means to get around illegal use of marijuana,' Moty said. The
investigation into Dixon Herbs 'demonstrates how easy it is (to get a
recommendation). It speaks a little bit to the credibility of the examination.'

"Both Moty and District Attorney Jerry Benito said Denney was never
the focus of the investigation. 'Under the medicinal marijuana laws,
we cannot touch the doctors in any way,' Benito said... The aim of the
investigation was to build a case against Dixon Herbs, Benito said.
'If he feels like somehow he was used or exploited to get a
recommendation, perhaps he should review his procedures.'"

Denney said at the time that whether or not he was their primary
target, the visit to his office by law enforcement operatives left him
feeling "violated and threatened." He added, "The effect of Moty's
move against Dixon Herbs is that a thousand or so patients in the
Redding area are forced onto the black market to buy their medicine.

Is that really what the chief of police wants?

Even if Dixon Herbs was not 100 percent up to snuff, it was far better
than the alternative and deserved to be worked with. That's what the
law requires -safe and affordable access.

The collusion between the state agencies and the feds is for no other
purpose than to overturn the will of the voters."

Denney has been licensed in California for almost 30 years and has
never run afoul of the medical board.

He has a cannabis-oriented practice with offices in Sacramento and
Orange County, as well as Redding. "I'm confident I can convince a
jury that my rights and my patients' rights were violated, and that
government agencies have been conspiring to block the implementation
of the medical marijuana law since it was enacted.

This goes back to 1996, to [former attorney general] Dan Lungren's
strategy of forcing doctors to appear in court and [former drug czar]
Barry McCaffrey's threat to revoke Tod Mikuriya's license." Denney
hopes to learn through the discovery process details of the DEA
investigation into his practice.

The suit cites ITAL Planned Parenthood v. Casey END ITAL as a case in
which "the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that physician speech is
entitled to First Amendment protection."

Vroman in the Gloamin'

Terence Hallinan of San Francisco was the only district attorney in
California who supported Prop 215 when it was on the ballot in 1996.
When Norm Vroman was elected DA from Mendocino, Hallinan was grateful
to have an ally. He came back from a meeting of the DAs Association
with glowing words of praise for the principled Libertarian from up
North. Albion activist Pebbles Trippet also spoke admiringly of Vroman
- -and still does. Even David Moore and Mike Schneider of the
MendoHealing collective, whom Vroman has charged with cultivation of
cannabis for sale, think that the DA has been misinformed about the
nature of their operation.

They say that if only he knew how many poor people were
beneficiaries... Everybody seems to think Norm Vroman is committed to
full implementation of California's medical marijuana law.

I don't -not after listening to Vroman at a meeting of the Medical
Marijuana Advisory Board in Fort Bragg July 28. I heard a man trying
to pass off stubbornness for integrity and electoral pandering for a
righteous worldview. "My philosophy," Vroman said more than once, "is
that if you're from Mendocino County and you're providing marijuana
for people in Mendocino County, you won't have a problem." This
elicited a knee-jerk cheer from some in attendance -New Settlers who
now consider themselves Original Gangstas. They reminded me of
anti-immigrant vigilantes in the Southwest who come on like native
Americans. When did these gringos' forbearers fall off the pickle
boat? David Moore's "crime" is that he moved to Fort Bragg in 2002 and
provided high-quality marijuana to people in San Francisco at a low

Mike Schneider's "crime" is that he worked for MendoHealing. (He
thought it was fulfilling the purpose of Prop 215. Schneider, an
idealist, earned a fraction of what a grower with his skills could
have made if his goals were commercial.)

People in San Francisco, especially the poor, don't have the set-up or
the training to grow high-resin cannabis.

They don't grow their own wine grapes or tomatoes,

Vroman's comments about letting people in other counties "fend for
themselves" might evoke applause from some Mendoland chauvinists, but
it's disconnected from socioeconomic reality and mean-spirited. Vroman
said that "people driving up the 101 corridor" to get marijuana have
"created a lot of problems." He didn't specify what the problems have
been. He doesn't express contempt for people who drive up 101 to visit
the wineries and drive home with a case of Merlot from Handley or
Maple Creek. Are the wine people better drivers, or are the "problems"
the result of law enforcement profiling and stopping the marijuana

Pebbles Trippet heard in Vroman's comments an "openness" to re-examine
the law created by SB-420 (which protects "Qualified patients... and
the designated primary caregivers of qualified patients... who
associate within California in order to collectively or cooperatively
cultivate marijuana for medical purposes"). What I heard was a zealous
prosecutor intent on taking down MendoHealing himself or seeing the
case transferred to the U.S. attorney.

With the sole exception of Terence Hallinan, officials from every
branch of government at every level -local, state, and federal-
opposed Prop 215. The voters passed it by a 56-44 margin, rejecting a
lifetime of War on Drugs propaganda. We were trying to tell the
government something about marijuana -that it's no BFD, it can even be
good for you-based on our collective experience and understanding.
Our important message has been ignored.

The authorities who opposed Prop 215 in '96 have succeeded in severely
limiting its implementation and are actively trying to roll it back.
They have the nerve to justify the rollback in the name of "what the
voters envisioned." They claim that the voters didn't envision doctors
approving marijuana for the treatment of depression and other "hardly
terminal diseases." They claim the voters didn't envision distribution
through Cannabis Buyers Clubs... How would they know why the people
voted "Yes?" They all voted "No."

Fred Gardner is the editor of O'Shaughnessy's Journal of the
California Cannabis Research Medical Group.
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