Buzz kill: Medical pot advocate draws 10-year sentence
Bryan Epis gambled and lost. On Oct. 7, the Chico resident was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of growing marijuana.

Epis had long defended and lobbied for the right to grow and distribute pot under the voter-approved Proposition 215, which was intended to allow people to use the herb if a doctor agreed it would help with a medical condition. Unfortunately, that proposition is in conflict with federal law, under which Epis was charged.

Epis had founded Chico’s Medical Marijuana Caregivers even before the passage of Proposition 215. In 1997 he was found guilty of growing 100 plants and conspiring to grow 1,000 plants.

This time, his attorney, the well-known and animated J. Tony Serra, argued that Epis was motivated by compassion for the sick and injured. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Wong characterized Epis as a “manager or supervisor of a criminal enterprise.” U.S. District Court Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. instructed the jury not to consider medical-necessity evidence, an exclusion he said is dictated by federal law.

$2.9 million BMU settlement: That’s what reserves are for
The big, new Bell Memorial Union has cost Chico State University students an extra $2.9 million—and the solvency of the budget for BMU programs and operations.

The university, which had been dealing with the contractor on behalf of the Associated Students, recently signed a settlement to pay Allen L. Bender, Inc., of Sacramento $2 million plus another $900,000 for already-agreed-upon change orders to the project. The students will be paying even more come next spring, as university President Manuel Esteban has ordered a $17-per-student fee to be assessed each semester so that such BMU programs as Adventure Outings and A.S. Recycling can continue to operate and reserves, which were wiped out by the deal, can be built back up.

It’s a bitter—and expensive—pill to swallow, especially since student leaders had hoped to reap up to $1.8 million in liquidated damages after the $30 million project came in a year late, over budget and with faults including a leaky roof. Even though the students paid for the building via voted-in fees, the university technically owns it.

“The principle of the matter sucks, yes,” A.S. President Jimmy Reed told student leaders at an Oct. 8 Governmental Affairs Committee meeting. Reed said later that he was “definitely not” expecting the university to settle.

“All we wanted was just more participation in this project from the beginning,” he said. “We think the university mismanaged this project.”

Hospital to stop X-raying kids’ treats
Acknowledging that X-raying candy is a waste of time, Enloe Medical Center announced its will no longer offer the use of their emergency room Halloween night to check kids’ treats for razor blades.

Hospital spokesperson Ann Prater said the free X-ray service the hospital has offered for about the last 10 years was ineffective and was taking radiologists’ attention away from medical emergencies. The service also has seen a steady decline in popularity, as parents began to realize that the old “razor blade in the apple trick” is less of a concern these days than other, less detectable forms of tampering.

In a press release, Enloe radiologist Carole Mickelson said the hospital admitted 38 adult patients last Halloween night, many of whom had injuries that required X-rays. With so much activity—including cases of assault, stabbings, and other serious admissions—hospital administrators decided it was time to can the candy screenings.

“It just seemed kind of illogical,” Prater said. “With all the madness going on downtown, we’re busy doing what we can to help those who made poor choices on Halloween or were the victims of poor choices.”

The practice may also have been a serious liability. While X-ray photos will pick up some of the most obvious tampering, they won’t pick up traces of poison, wood, plastic or glass. Prater said Enloe doesn’t want to give parents a false sense of security in believing that the candy their kids were given by strangers is safe just because it has been X-rayed.