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Medical Marijuana 'Truth in Trials Act' Introduced

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the wake of the federal conviction of medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal -- found guilty of felony marijuana cultivation charges by a jury that was not allowed to consider that the marijuana was for medical use by seriously ill patients and was grown with the express authorization of the city of Oakland, California -- U.S. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and at least 23 other members of Congress today introduced legislation to prevent such injustices in the future.

The Truth in Trials Act would allow individuals accused of violating federal marijuana laws to introduce evidence in federal court that they followed state law for the purpose of alleviating suffering. Defendants could be found not guilty if the jury found that they followed state medical marijuana laws.

The Rosenthal case sparked outrage nationwide, starting with the jurors who felt they had been duped into convicting an innocent man. "I helped send a man to prison who does not belong there," juror Marney Craig wrote in a column for the San Jose Mercury News. Newspaper editorial boards nationwide, including The New York Times and Baltimore's The Sun, condemned the verdict, using terms like "mean-spirited" and "cruel."

"This is an issue of states' rights, plain and simple," said Rep. Farr, lead sponsor of the bill. "The voters of California have passed a medical marijuana initiative, but the federal government has exhibited little respect for our state's laws. Attorney General John Ashcroft has insisted that his opinion is of greater consequence than the citizens of California -- five million of whom voted for Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in pain."

"This is a matter of basic fairness," said Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Jurors who could imprison someone for decades for trying to help the sick have a right to hear the whole truth, not a censored version that is stripped of any facts the government doesn't like."

Joining Reps. Farr and Rohrabacher at a Capitol Hill press conference to announce the bill's introduction was fellow sponsor Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Also lending their support were Rosenthal juror Marney Craig; Ashley Epis, eight-year-old daughter of medical marijuana grower Bryan Epis, who is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence; Valerie Corral, co-founder of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration on Sept. 5, 2002; Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project; and Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access, a grassroots organization dedicated to ending the federal government's war on medical marijuana.

This is a press release of the Marijuana Policy Project.

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