Here we go again: Bryan Epis, who holds the honor of being California’s first medical-marijuana grower to be convicted in federal court, was released from prison last August after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court ruled that the feds had overstepped their boundaries in prosecuting medical-pot patients who appeared to be following state law.
But a recent Supreme Court decision overruled that of the 9th Circuit, sending Epis once again into the federal court system. U.S. prosecutor Samuel Wong filed motions last week that will bring Epis back for a new sentencing. Epis has already served more than two years on charges he conspired to grow 1,000 pot plants for cannabis-using patients in Butte County.
“I could get 10 years or I could get one day—it’s all up to the judge,” Epis said when interviewed by phone Monday. Epis noted that other medical-marijuana suppliers have gotten much more lenient sentences than he did, a fact he blames both on being an early player in the game and on the conservative judicial climes of Butte County and California’s Eastern District federal court system.
Brown Act stays together: The Ralph M. Brown Act, which as any journalism student or government gadfly knows, assures that local government meeting agendas are printed and posted in a conspicuous manner 72 hours before a meeting, so controversial issues like multi-level parking structures proposed for the heart of a downtown don’t slip the public’s notice. The act also requires local governments to announce all decisions made in closed session. But a proposition passed last November says the state government can no longer force local governments to carry out unfunded mandates, unless, unlike the Brown Act, they are embedded in the State Constitution. And the governor, acting to reduce government spending, said he wanted to slash the state funding that reimburses local governments for agenda printing costs from $20 million to $2 million. Suddenly there was a fear among publishers, editors and reporters that some communities would simply stop following the dictates of the act.
A group of media interests, including Californians Aware, the California First Amendment Coalition and the California Newspaper Publishers Association, sent out word asking newspapers to lobby the six members of the Budget Conference Committee, which includes Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico. We contacted Keene and asked him to vote for a trailer bill attached to the Legislative Analyst Office’s recommended amendment to the budget that in effect made the provisions of the act part of the constitution, meaning local governments must still follow them. Keene and the conference committee voted to do so this week. Keene called to say he is confident the Brown Act will not be affected as the budget winds its way through the Legislature toward the governor’s desk for signing.
Prune, Cherry calamity: The Butte County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ask the state to declare an agricultural state of disaster in Butte County because prune and cherry yields are down some 37 percent and 90 percent, respectively.
County Ag Commissioner Richard Price said this season’s unusual weather has devastated much of the county’s fruit crop. The late spring rain got the cherries, while March heat kept prunes from “setting.”
Price wasn’t expecting much in the way of relief from the state but said the declaration clears the way for farmers to get low-interest “disaster loans” from the feds.