Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jun 2016
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2016 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


What Five Years in Prison Taught California Former Dispensary Owner 
Dale Schafer, and Why He's Thinking About Getting Back into the Marijuana Biz

A judge sentenced Dale Schafer to 60 months federal prison in 2008, 
but now the attorney and celebrity drug-war is out - and getting back 
into marijuana.

The 62-year-old resident of Roseville, a suburb just east of 
Sacramento, and his wife, Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry, became a poster 
couple for outrage over the federal crackdown on medical pot when 
federal prosecutors indicted them for operating a clinic in the 
Northern California foothills.

The feds raided Schafer's business in 2001, arrested him in 2005, 
tried and convicted him in 2007, and sentenced him a year later. The 
couple eventually surrendered to federal authorities in 2011, and 
Schafer served five years before his release this spring.

This paper recently spoke to Schafer about his ordeal, and why he's 
decided to re-enter the industry by offering half-day seminars on the 
Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act - and why he's endorsing 
the 2016 California cannabis legalization initiative, The Adult Use 
of Marijuana Act.

Legalization Nation: What happened in 2001?

Schafer: We were raided by federal agents a couple of weeks after 
9/11. Despite having local sheriff's deputies at my house on numerous 
occasions, and inviting them up to view my garden, they came with 
several dozen agents, with guns drawn, to execute search warrants 
against my house and office.

And they finally indicted you in 2005?

About two weeks after the [Gonzales v. Raich] case was decided by the 
[the Supreme Court of the United States, clarifying federal police 
powers over state medical pot use], we were indicted and arrested on 
federal charges of manufacturing over 100 marijuana plants and 
conspiracy to manufacture over 100 plants and to distribute marijuana.

Describe your prison experience for us.

There isn't enough room or time to do justice to this question. I was 
sent to seven different jails, prisons or other institutions, over 
the course of my 52 months in custody. ... I was witness to 
corruption, inefficiencies, worthless programs, including 
drug-treatment programs and generally wasting time for inmates. I 
learned that prison solves little, deters less and creates as many, 
if not more, problems than it is supposed to solve.

Medical-cannabis-industry opinion on AUMA is mixed. Why do you support it?

With four states ahead of us on the recreational question, and the 
[United States Department of Justice] taking a step back if certain 
criteria are met, I believe the time is right to get as much 
"legalization" as can be obtained, while starting a comprehensive 
regulatory and taxation framework. AUMA is far from perfect, and I 
worry about the very sick, and my physician friends that recommend, 
as people switch from medical to recreational. I believe with 
attention to the regulation process, the major problems can be avoided.

Removing criminal sanctions for cannabis activities has long been a 
goal of mine.... When I left prison, I promised the guys left behind 
that I would do all I could to fight against the war on drugs, reform 
the criminal-justice system and bring effective, science-based 
treatment to all that need it. I see the possibility for AUMA to do a 
great deal toward those goals. Additionally, if California goes 
recreational, another floodgate will open. I hope it doesn't take 
another twenty years for the entire paradigm of cannabis prohibition 
to change across the country.

Why did you re-enter the cannabis industry?

I have experience and knowledge in the area. When [the Medical 
Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act] was signed into law, the 
questions began to fly. I read it and began answering questions. When 
it became apparent that AUMA was going to make the ballot, I read it 
and determined that it did much of what I wanted and that the 
downside was not bad enough to go against it.

What has your life experiences taught about supporting legalization?

I'm old enough to have been witness to many shifts in social beliefs. 
I was in high school when the 1968 Democratic Convention turned into 
a blood bath. I was in the military when we left Vietnam and Nixon 
resigned. The War on Drugs was put on steroids as I was becoming a 
lawyer in the 1980s and during the Clinton anti-crime period. I was 
lucky enough to meet, and befriend, Tod Mikuriya, and I read his 
marijuana papers, which opened my eyes to much. ... My tenure as an 
attorney has witnessed some of the horrors of the criminal war 
against human conduct that has fallen all-too-often on the poor and minorities.

I see a time when logic and science is holding the attention of 
policymakers, as well as voters. The hysteria and hobgoblins are 
still out there, doing damage. However, common sense and fiscal 
responsibility are becoming strange bedfellows in the fight to 
reverse how drugs are treated in our society, and the world.

I believe the power and the money have been driving forces behind 
prohibition, but average citizens see that also. It's time we 
directed our law-enforcement assets toward those we fear, and not 
those we are mad at.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom