Pubdate: Wed, 12 Sep 2007
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Record Searchlight
Author: Ryan Sabalow
Bookmark: (Philip A. Denney, MD.)
Bookmark: (Conant)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Judge Decides Against Throwing Out Pot Dispenser's Claims

A federal judge rejected a government move to throw out a First
Amendment lawsuit filed by a Redding doctor caught up in a sting
against a local medical marijuana dispensary.

A trial date was set for next summer.

Dr. Philip Denney, a vocal medical marijuana advocate who frequently
prescribes the drug, sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and
other government agencies for sending informants and undercover agents
to his office posing as patients in 2005.

Denney alleges they targeted him because of his stance on the
controversial drug, violating his legally protected right to a
confidential relationship with his patients and his ability to
prescribe a legal drug as he sees fit.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton denied a request
by the DEA and other defendants to throw out the case, saying that
Denney's allegations have merit.

"The circumstances at least permit the inference that (Denney) was
under investigation for his speech concerning medical marijuana,"
Karlton wrote.

Speaking from his Redding office on Wednesday, Denney called Karlton's
order a "huge victory."

"What made it huge was the judge's opinion," Denney said, referring to
the 36-page order filed in California's Eastern District Court in
Sacramento. "He basically refuted all of the government's arguments. 
It's pretty clear this is going to a jury."

Among those also named in Denney's suit are the federal Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Redding Police Department;
Shasta County Sheriff's Office; and county District Attorney Jerry

A DEA spokeswoman in San Francisco declined to comment Tuesday on the
ongoing lawsuit.

A trial was set for June 2008, Denney said.

Denney's involvement in the case stems from Dixon Herbs, a Redding
dispensary agents busted and shut down in December 2005. The store
reopened weeks later and continues doing business at another location
in Redding, Denney said.

Denney filed his suit in November 2006. In it, Denney says an
informant and an ATF agent visited his office on separate occasions,
gave false identification, reported chronic pain and received written
recommendations for marijuana.

The agents then went to the Redding herb store and bought medical
marijuana, according to court documents.

Police have said Denney was not a target of the probe, and he was not
charged with a crime.

But Denney claims he clearly was under investigation. He was under
surveillance -- court papers show officers debated wearing a wire
before going inside and had discussed going into his clinic armed, he

Denney's suit alleges the investigators violated a 2002 decision by
the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that a doctor's
discussions with a patient about the pros and cons of medical
marijuana are protected under the First Amendment.

California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 gives seriously ill
patients the right to obtain and use marijuana to control pain, nausea
and other symptoms.

No such law exists on the federal level. 
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