MARCH 29, 2011 3:53AM

Dazed and Confused: Mixed Signals on Medical Marijuana

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Medical Marijuana sign 

California defendants face new federal charges after state's illegal search and seizure.

When it comes to Celebrity Justice, the name Scott Feil doesn't have quite the cachet of Barry Bonds or Lindsay Lohan, but anyone interested in learning how justice is served today would do well to follow Mr. Feil's fortunes along a tortured path in the country that famously promises "liberty and justice for all."

Mr. Feil was the Executive Director of a southern California medical marijuana dispensary called United Medical Caregivers Clinic (UMCC) when the Los Angeles Police Department raided his business in 2005, using a search warrant that was ultimately determined to have been issued illegally.

Years of legal wrangling resulted in a 2009 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found LAPD's actions in the case unconstitutional and returned to Mr. Feil and UMCC nearly $200,000 that had been seized by the police and turned over to federal prosecutors.

In the wake of the 9th Circuit's ruling, federal prosecutors levied new charges against Mr. Feil and his colleagues.

Several co-defendants associated with UMCC, including Mr. Feil's wife Diana, now face prosecution for federal crimes that could send each of them to prison for up to 20 years -- which appears quite at odds with very public statements made previously by President Brack Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder.

While campaigning for the presidency, Mr. Obama said that federal raids related to medical marijuana "make no sense." 

Mr. Holder issued formal federal guidelines for medical marijuana policy early in the new administration, saying in October 2009,  "It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana." 

The UMCC defendants contend their business provided diagnosis, counseling and treatment for seriously ill people under the State of California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop 215), which legalized the distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes in California. The fact that the business operated in compliance with state law was a key finding in the case decided by the 9th Circuit.

Now, more than four years after the original illegal search and seizure against their business, Mr. Feil, his wife and their colleagues remain consumed with efforts to keep federal agents at bay, defining their lives by a quest for liberty and justice.

The disconnect may lie in a more recent, little-publicized memorandum written in February by US Attorney Melinda Haag of the Justice Department's Northern California office.  Responding to requests for guidance from the Oakland, CA City Attorney, Ms. Haag wrote that the US Attorney would enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act "vigorously" against individuals and organizations even if their activities are permitted under state law.

Amazingly, Mr. Feil seems prepared for the long haul. The former stock car racer and NASCAR driver appeared undeterred at a recent meeting near San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, where he spoke optimistically about his case and described the retaliatory nature of the charges he will fight in the coming months.

"These charges are based on a violation of our 4th Amendment rights," he said, maintaining that "it's an incredible waste of resources and taxpayers' money to pursue this case."

The merits of US v. Feil, et al are unlikely to be considered for months, but serveral important procedural motions are set to be argued in the coming weeks, including hearings on Motions to Supress Evidence obtained illegally, Motions to Establish Standing and Motions to Disclose Confidential Informants, all on the calendar for April 14 in the Federal District Court in San Francisco.

Lonnie Lazar is a freelance journalist in San Francisco, CA. Contact him at or 415.994.5353

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I don't even know what to say at this point. Obama has essentially turned about face on virtually everything he said he represented in his campaign. However, his actions prior to his election were fairly clear and they were good indicators that this is where he would send us if he got into office. He has proven to be a master of the bait and switch approach to dealing with the American public.

Appreciated is your detailed account of the situation. America's ridiculous "war on drugs" is only destructive.

I'm so glad he has the resources to fight the feds. It is a horrible situation and I am so disappointed that Obama doesnt see this as the economic boost that it could be and change things.
Your link to Haag's memo does not work. You are welcome to use mine here.
"This core priority includes prosecution of business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana. Accordingly, while the Department does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the October 2009 Ogden Memorandum, we will enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law."

The above from Haag seems to contain contradictory run-on sentences (from whirlwind, yours is 404 not found Lonbud).

What a farce. Bet they're pissed about having to return his 200g. I'd bet if they (the Melinda Haag's) became patients, they would see the folly of their actions... or maybe not. Such a waste of time and money in a time where we don't have either to waste.
As far as Obama, I agree with Rick Lucke's assessment. I hope Mr. Feil kicks their asses in court... again.
Good post, Lonnie, and well-writ as always. Feil better hope Roberts and Alito are dopers.
Whirlwind, thanks for the 404 heads up and for being on top of Haag's memo several days ago. I've fixed my link now to a PDF of the actual memo, with Haag's signature, just in case anyone thought your post was tongue-in-cheek.

I'll be reporting more on this story as it develops, so stay tuned, y'all.
Yeah, amazingly. Echoing trig's reflections.
i hope other california dispensaries are contributing to Feil's legal fund, because this is not just his fight. good post!
This is what racism has led us to. The drug laws were launched entirely as an attempt to control black and brown folks, unlike prohibition, which was attempted because alcohol makes so many people crazy. What you all aren't willing to look at is our BLACK HAWAIIAN FEARLESS LEADER, who knows all about weed, and blow for that matter, and had the Puna Butter connect before anyone outside Santa Cruz and Humboldt even knew what sensie was, CAN'T DO WHAT YOU WANT OR HE WONT BE RE-ELECTED BECAUSE HE IS BLACK (even though he's not, actually).

You can be pissed, and you should be, but, blame Anslinger and Reagan, and wake up to reality instead of living in fantasy land.

Wait until after November 2012, oh, and be sure and help him flip the House back and keep the Senate- then you will see the end of all this.

Living in a bubble is just plain ignorant, no different from being a Tea Bagger except you don't want to hurt anyone, except yourself while you pull your hair out!!!

nice work here, rated
lorianne & oahusurfer so nice to hear from true cognoscenti.

dispensaries all over the west are under pressure -- from Cali to CO to MT -- who knows how it will shake out.

I see it as a failure of conviction on those in the Democratic party who are part of the Establishment. Certainly not since I was a week tyke have more people in this country leaned to the left and if the power players had the cojones to lead the people would get behind them in droves and the frickin' Philistines and Barbarians could be driven from the gates.

But, no.
The reason doctors don't like medical marijuana is that when people are stoned they don't feel sick. Where's the money in that?
The reason doctors don't like medical marijuana is that when people are stoned they don't feel sick. Where's the money in that?
I second Rick Lucke 100%.