Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jan 2007
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2007 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Adam Martin, The Examiner
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Amid a shower of tossed daisies, a flurry of hugs and lots of tears, 
a 60-year-old woman who was investigated by San Francisco police for 
growing medical marijuana in 2002 turned herself in to federal 
marshals this week.

Stephanie Landa must begin serving her 41-month federal prison 
sentence while waiting for her latest appeal to make its way through 
the courts, a federal judge ruled in December. In 2002, Landa pleaded 
guilty to federal marijuana cultivation charges. Evidence, including 
the actual marijuana, collected during the San Francisco police 
investigation was used in her federal prosecution.

On July 18, 2002, police officers raided the warehouse space Landa 
and two co-defendants were renting at 560 Brannan St., just two 
blocks from police headquarters at the Hall of Justice. They placed 
Landa in handcuffs and read her Miranda rights, then let her go, but 
three weeks later, according to her attorney Allison Margolin, she 
was indicted on federal drug charges.

At the time of Landa's arrest, San Francisco had recently declared 
itself a symbolic "sanctuary" for medical marijuana users, growers 
and distributers. Proposition 215, passed by state voters in 1996, 
permits the growing and using of medical marijuana with a doctor's 

Most recently, in November, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 
passed a resolution making marijuana violations the lowest priority 
for law enforcement. But marijuana possession, cultivation and sales 
remain federal crimes.

Before Landa's arrest, she said, she and other medical marijuana 
activists met with San Francisco police officers with the narcotics 
division, who advised them on the law, and suggested they set up shop 
near the Hall of Justice to lower the risk of burglaries.

"They said as long as you stay in The City, within the city limits, 
hire licensed electricians, you can grow medical marijuana," Landa 
said Wednesday.

But Capt. Tim Hettrich, who heads the narcotics division, said 
Wednesday that the officers never gave specific advice to individuals 
and "definitely" didn't instruct them on where to set up shop.

"We are not going to advise people to break the law," Hettrich said. 
"At the time, Prop. 215 was in effect. [The officers] went out and 
spoke to many groups on the effect of the law on citizens for 
medicinal marijuana."

On Thursday, as Landa hugged her 20-year-old son Max Landa before 
heading into the federal building, Police Commissioner David Campos 
called for a review of police resources spent on the enforcement of 
marijuana laws.

"It makes no sense to me that we would expend those resources 
enforcing marijuana laws," he said. "The idea that a 60-year-old 
woman could spend 41 months in prison makes no sense to me."

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who introduced the latest marijuana 
legislation, said, "I'm supportive of this woman. I think there's a 
lot of arbitrary morality in this decision. If anybody's a victim, I 
think she is."

But Capt. Hettrich defended the department's handling of the case. He 
said a citizen complaint instigated the surveillance and subsequent 
raid of the warehouse.

"We would be remiss in our duty if we did not investigate complaints," he said. 
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