Letters from the front lines!

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Dear Patients, Friends and Family Members:
After Court in San Bernardino, and a nice chance to talk with Rory Murray about a GREAT YouTube musical video (see the next e-mail), I then finished putting together the SECOND motion to disqualify a BAD judge in Riverside County — something I spent the whole weekend working on after the judge improperly struck my first motion to disqualify him.
This all began when I got a call from a woman whose child was taken away from her by DPSS. The way this child was removed from his family was extremely questionable and, in my opinion, improper. But what happened after that has been a nightmare.
The mother called Crusaders because when DPSS showed up, she was legally using medical marijuana. Under DPSS’s written policy, the legal use of medical marijuana is just like the legal use of prescription drugs or alcohol: if your use of these legal products is not impairing your ability to be a parent, DPSS is not supposed to make an issue of your use. And, in fact, the mother’s case plan did not require her to stop using medical marijuana: only ILLEGAL drugs. And, under state law and DPSS’s own policy, marijuana is not an illegal drug if you have a doctor’s recommendation.
In this case, the mother had a recommendation and there was NO connection between her use of marijuana and the reason the child was allegedly removed — “domestic violence” in which SHE had been the victim. The domestic violence was that her partner had grabbed her arm and left bruises when he didn’t want her to leave during an argument. And when CPS insisted that she and the child would have to move into a shelter, she refused — and rather than help her get a restraining order against the dad, or accepting the dad’s offer to move in with his parents so she and their child wouldn’t have to go to a shelter, CPS took the 20 month-old child!
The person who had called in the report had also claimed that the mother had stabbed the father, that she was using meth and her house was a wreck and her child was neglected, and that she was also using marijuana. Every single allegation was established by CPS’s investigation to be untrue — except that she was LEGALLY using medical marijuana. They drug-tested her, and she tested negative for any other kind of drug.
Then, her own attorney ignored her requests for help addressing the legality of her use of marijuana. Her own attorney had ignored the fact that DPSS policy allowed her to use marijuana. Her own attorney insisted she switch to a prescription medication that made her fall asleep in the day time, that did not treat her pain, and that has a lot of bad side effects, including being very addictive. So she saw the ad in Kush magazine about Crusaders for Patients’ Rights and called me.
When we sat down with her attorney, and the attorney saw the mistakes she’d been making, she decided to bail on the case. She made an motion to be relieved as counsel — and the jduge in the dependency court GRANTED the motion BEFORE it was even filed, before the mother had a chance to put in her side of the story, and before there had been any hearing!
Was this an accident? I could not believe it when I saw the signed order, so I went to the courthouse and asked if the clerks recognized the signature — I had thought that maybe the attorney forged the signature to get out of the case.
Wrong. They recognized the signature as that of the only dependency judge operating in the Southwest Justice Center: Judge Michael Joseph Rushton.
So I said, how can this order be signed a day BEFORE the motion has even been filed? Before mother has a chance to oppose it? Before a HEARING?!?! And they said, Judge Rushton doesn’t LIKE to have motions set in his courtroom. He tells us to bring him any motions BEFORE they are filed, and he takes care of them.
I have told this story to several attorneys, and every single one has said “You need to report him!” For a judge to violate litigants’ rights to due process like this is INCREDIBLE!
So, on behalf of mother, I filed a motion to disqualify Judge Rushton, because a judge who doesn’t want to hear mother’s side of the story before he grants an order AGAINST her
obviously can’t be fair.
And guess what? Judge Rushton STRUCK the motion to disqualify him, so he can continue to judge mother. Does it get worse? Yes?
Because after I made the motion, but before I found out he’d struck it, I found out more. Another dependency attorney told me that Judge Rushton has said that as far as he is concerned ALL marijuana is illegal.
So I went on line to see what I could find out about him. You won’t be surprised to learn that he only became a judge in 2010, and that before that he worked for the Rod Pacheco-era Riverside County D.A.’s Office, that was infamous for proescuting legitimate patients and making THEM prove that they were innocent, instead of being presumed innocent. But he didn’t only work for Rod Pacheco: in 2008, he was named “Top Prosecutor.” And what was he prosecuting? Drug cases.
So then I asked mother, did Judge Rushton ever say anything to you that indicated that he has a problem distinguishing between medical and recreational marijuana? And she said that at the very first hearing, Judge Rushton pointed his finger at her and said, I’m only giving you six months to reunify with your child, because I am not going to wait for your drug addiction! And there was no evidence that she was a drug addict!
So today, Tuesday, I will be filing a SECOND motion to disqualify him based on these NEW facts about his prejudice against legal medical marijuana users and his inability to follow state law.
But I have also contacted the Commission on Judicial Performance about this, and the Presiding Judge for the whole Riverside Superior Court.
And I am going to do my best to at least get this judge out of the dependency court, where the rules of confidentiality mean that witnesses like the Human Solution volunteers cannot watch what is being done, and no one can even look at all the court records to see how many times Judge Rushton signed orders before there was a hearing or an opportunity to respond. And since Judge Rushton got into office because he ran unopposed, I hope that we can come up with some other, better candidates to run against him when it’s time for his re-election bid.
Also, please stand by, because I may also ask any of you who are willing to do so to send letters of concern to the Commission on Judicial Performance and to the Presiding Judge asking that he not be allowed to sit in a confidential court where the public can’t keep an eye on him, and that he be disqualified from sitting in any case in which medical marijuana is an issue. When it’s time for those letters, I’ll send another e-mail with the addresses.
Thanks for taking the time to read this: it’s an important issue that can and will affect the fairness of very important hearings at which parental rights can be permanently severed. And thanks to Lanette Davies, who founded Crusaders for Patients’ Rights, who put the ads in Kush magazine offering our help to patients who need it, and who provides me with enough money to pay for some of the various costs involved in these projects — like paying to have a notary verify the statements of disqualification, and paying for all the copies and postage involved in notifying people — on top of spending $5,000 a month on a lobbying team to work against bad legislation like A.B. 1300 and S.B. 847.

Letitia E. Pepper for Crusaders for Patients’ Rights
__._,_.___

Dispatches from the Field: Bend Over and Assume the Position

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Our friend, Cynthia Johnston has written an excellent article outlining the Joe’s stories.  In tackling the subject, Cynthia covers not only the details of the case beautifully,  she tells a compelling and compassionate story of two men who have been beaten down, but not completely broken by a system that has stubbornly refused to fully acknowlege that  Compassionate Use is legal and the will of the people that it serves.
 
Excerpt:
Long Beach Superior Courthouse, Thursday, June 9, 2011, 8:30 AM
 
“We’ve got a lot of people today,” observed Judge Sheldon as he entered his courtroom. Los Angeles attorneys Allison Margolin and J. Raza Lawrence were representing Joe Byron. Jina Kim of  Glew & Kim in Santa Ana was defending Joe Grumbine. Taking over the case for “the People” was District Attorney Jodi B. Castano.
 
In February of 2011, during a four-day closed-door preliminary hearing before Judge Jesse Rodriguez, the attorneys for Byron and Grumbine were prohibited from introducing evidence showing that their clients’ medical-marijuana dispensary activities were operating in full compliance with state law. The bulk of the legal wrangling so far has been over this point.
 
By interpreting the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 to mean that no money whatsoever may change hands for medical marijuana, L. A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who makes no secret of his personal war on medical marijuana, justifies the arrests of law-abiding dispensary owners by charging them with “sales.” Yet Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, who co-authored the Compassionate Use Act, told Greggory Moore of The Long Beach Post on June 14 that the intent of the legislation “was not to prohibit dispensaries from engaging in sales of this medicine. In fact, it was to clarify the allowance of it.” [Italics ours.]

 

You can read the entire article at http://unitedstatesvmarijuana.blogspot.com/2011/06/dispatch-from-field-bend-over-and.html

Adventures of the Green Team

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The Green Team by court supporter and patient John Grace.
June 26, 2011

 

The Green Team. I guess that’s what they are calling us at the courts these days. I’m glad because it was a good week as far as weeks in court go. Catrina Falbo had her case dismissed, Tara Sorenson achieved a good plea agreement, and we are turning out about 25 people whenever we show up. This fills over half the courtroom. I wonder what they think?

We are a mismatched bunch showing up unabashed at courtrooms and council meetings. Lots of representatives from the over 55 contingent with our silver hair proudly glinting in the sunlight have been on hand to lend support. Some of us are new cannabis patients while some have been warriors for legalization for over 40 years. The younger group is also abundantly represented, considering that they often have to take off work to take part in these actions. Some are also martyrs to the Catch 22 of quasi-legalization we exist under or have family members suffering alongside. Aside from our green ribbons adorned with small red crosses we look like Middle America, not like the organized crime figures prosecutors want to paint us as.

Judge Gallivan in West Court really seemed to take this to heart when he pronounced that Catrina Falbo was obviously not a drug dealer . He dismissed all charges brought against her by a Huntington Beach sting operation targeting her Delivery Service.

Tara Sorenson’s Judge in Santa Ana Court seemed to be of like mind when he commented on her plea agreements’ year of formal probation saying that when it was over everything would be dismissed. The Judge also sympathized with her status as a patient and ordered that she be allowed to use cannabis medication during her probation.

HempRadio (hempradio.com) was on hand to conduct interviews with Chris Glew and Scott Well attorneys for the defendants (soon on Youtube) who gave us insight into the law and the court process. This was helpful as the process these bodies use seems so archaic and frustrating to most outsiders. Both of these guys are fine attorneys and I’m glad they are on our side.

This article wouldn’t be complete without a big thank you to Joe Grumbine and The Human Solution for providing the organization, the alerts, and the last minute calls to action. Your leadership on this issue has been instrumental in us gaining the credibility and participation to be able to help more people.

If you’re a victim of judicial prosecution for medical marijuana, call Joe and The Human Solution so we can support you too in your struggle with the courts.

If you are a supporter join up to receive action alerts. Don’t worry that you won’t be able to come every time; few of us are able to do that. Come when you can and above all spread the word. Join us and be a part of a community that is working to help people caught between a system where they are both legal and illegal for the same actions. You ’ll learn a lot, have fun, and be with good, caring people who share your appreciation of cannabis. We are here to help. Log on to The-Human-Solution.org and sign up today! Really, right now, log on!

Spottedcrow’s Mother’s Day Gift

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Patricia Spottedcrow hadn’t hugged her four children in seven months, as of Mother’s Day. She counts the days, as she sits in Eddie Warrior Correctional Center. This is her punishment handed to her for selling $31 in cannabis. Her first offense, and she will serve 12 years.

The Human Solution heard about her story and knew action was needed. We would like to thank all of our generous contributors that made it possible for Patricia’s children to receive new clothes for their Mother’s Day visit.

As the children waited for their mom to appear in the hall, they began to chant “mommie”. Patricia appeared and the children ran into the arms of a lonely mother. Many tears were shed some sad, mostly happy. Patricia was on cloud nine, showing off her children to other incarcerated mothers in the visiting yard. The visit only lasted a short time. It was hard to squeeze in seven months of hugs, kisses, and positive words into just a few hours.

The Human Solution is very proud of its members and so grateful for the opportunity to help this incredible family. We have heard from Dee (their grandmother)and they are still in need of donations of daily items; diapers, calling cards used to talk to Patricia, and additional clothing items and shoes.

Urgent: Contact Your Congressman Today!

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If you have ever been directly in contact with a terminally ill human; a sister, a dad, a friend, a uncle, a co worker. You saw how the illness took the body and spirit and drained the very things you cherished away, sometimes in just still moments.
I beg of you to email or call your congressman. Tell them you believe medicinal cannabis use is a human right. Share with them there are children with brain tumors that need and continue to thrive with its aid. Terminally ill patients have the right to use its pain relieving properties. The ill should not suffer any longer with prescription toxins. They need to have a choice…a voice…your support..CALL NOW!!!

http://www.contactingthecongress.org/