Drug War Briefs: Fully Informed Juries

June 25- The Sacramento Bee reports: A long-smoldering medical marijuana case burst into flames Monday when a Sacramento federal judge accused the defendant of trying to taint the prospective-juror pool and had him briefly arrested.

All 42 would-be jurors were disqualified by an outraged U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. when he learned that some of the panelists were given a first-person statement attributed to defendant Bryan James Epis, and a pamphlet purporting to explain how jurors are manipulated by judges.

Prospective jurors' exposure to the literature triggered a heated exchange between Damrell and an agitated J. Tony Serra, who insisted his client had nothing to do with the distribution.

Monday's clash is the latest manifestation of the increasing tension between the advocates of California's law allowing medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation and the agents and prosecutors who enforce the federal ban on pot for any purpose.

Underscoring the hostile atmosphere was a federal drug agent's arrest of a leading pro-marijuana activist, who was then locked up in one of the building's holding cells. Jeffrey Jones, who was arrested outside the courthouse during the Epis hearing, was later brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows. Jones was cited for a misdemeanor attempt to influence jurors by handing out the literature and released pending trial. Jones heads the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, which provided pot to patients suffering from AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other serious ailments. It was hit with an injunction two weeks ago by a federal judge in Oakland.

The pamphlet, a product of the so-called Fully Informed Jury Association alleges that judges rarely tell jurors of their right "to judge the law itself and vote on the verdict according to conscience." The pamphlet says a person cannot be forced to obey a "juror's oath" and has the right to "hang" the jury "if you cannot agree with the other jurors."

June 28- The Baltimore Sun reports: The Supreme Court put public high school students on notice this week: Drug tests may be required for playing chess or joining the cheerleader squad. Justices ruled 5-4 that schools' interest in ridding their campuses of drugs outweighs students' right to privacy, allowing the broadest drug testing yet of young people whom authorities have no particular reason to suspect of wrongdoing.

The decision gives school leaders a free hand to test students who participate in competitive after-school activities or teams - more than half the estimated 14 million American high school students.

Drug tests had been allowed previously for student athletes.

June 29- The Philippine Star reports: A Malabon City judge yesterday meted the death penalty to a big-time drug pusher and a life term to his cohort after they were caught with some 25 kilos of marijuana bricks in a buy-bust operation by police anti-narcotics operatives in March this year.

Eduardo Limpin, 24, single, jobless, of 42 University Avenue, Potrero, Malabon, who is to die by legal injection, was also given life imprisonment for illegal possession of a kilo of dried marijuana leaves.

His co-accused, Ricky America, 32, single, jobless, also of the same place, was sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal possession of some two kilos of dried marijuana bricks.

June 30- The Vancouver Province reports: Move over Amsterdam, Vancouver is burning bright as the world's el primo spliff-city.

It's official. Vancouver has been voted the world's best spot for marijuana smokers, according to the summer edition of High Times, which has a circulation of 200,000.

Even though it's against the law to smoke weed in Vancouver, the magazine chose Terminal City over longtime No. 1 Amsterdam, where it's legal to light up. Vancouver's "pot cafes," the seeming tolerance for bud and the availability and high quality of locally grown cannabis earned Vancouver its title.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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