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February 28, 2007

Harvest Fest alleged joint-passing case proceeds as felony distribution

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On Monday, Chris Lankford had his initial appearance on new felony pot distribution charges arising out of a tainted and flawed arrest at Harvest Fest 2006, as hundreds prepared to march up State St. to the Capitol for the festival’s annual parade.

He now faces the following charges for being observed passing a white round cylindrical object to a friend at Harvest Fest:

1 946.41(1) Resisting or Obstructing an Officer Misd. A
2 961.41(1)(h)1 Manufacture/Deliver THC (<=200g) Felony I
3 961.41(3g)(e) Possession of THC Misd. U

The next step in the case will be a status conference in late March, and following that, a preliminary hearing at which Officer Michael Mansavage, the UW officer who made the flawed arrest, the same officer who pepper-sprayed Ben Masel for collecting signatures to run for US Senate, will be on the stand. Stay tuned for the date and time so we have a huge show of support for Chris, and send a strong message that these kind of wasteful prosecutions must stop!

Yesterday, I delivered a $100.00 contribution from Madison NORML towards the estimated $7500.00 cost of taking this case to a jury trial. At the same time, I also dropped off a smaller contribution from myself and New Jersey activist Jim Miller, who spoke at the last 4 Harvest Fests.

Sadly, there has been little other response to the need for donations to help fund this defense.

I cannot understand this. A successful outcome in this case sends a strong message that police should not target peaceful pot smokers at Harvest Fest. Not only that, but the sheer randomness of this arrest means that everyone else present got off easily. They got to march to the Capitol and protest with their cannabis while Chris and his friend were cuffed and hauled off to jail to spend the night. Then, they have had to face criminal charges and the lingering emotional stress and pain. So making a small donation to help ensure a successful outcome in this case is a very small price to pay, not to mention the fact it helps defend future Harvest Fests.

Once again, here is the info for making donations:

Donations should be sent to Steinberg Law Office, P.O. Box 2614, Madison, WI 53701, payable to Peter Steinberg, with the notation "Chris Lankford Defense Fund."

Please help make future Harvest Fests safe from this kind of harassment!


Posted by Gary at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2007

A letter from federal prison: Stephanie Landa

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In January, the Capital Times published a letter I wrote, Congress Should Protect Americans Legally Using Medical Marijuana, click here that mentioned the tragic case of Stephanie Landa, a 60-year old California medical marijuana patient who began serving a 41-month federal sentence for growing her medicine in early January.

Her arrest, trial and incarceration happened despite the fact that Landa and her associates were growing cannabis with the knowledge and consent of then San Francisco DA Terry Hallinan, the board of supervisors and the San Francisco Police Dept.

Yesterday, I received this letter from her responding to a letter I sent her.

Feb. 22 2007

Dear Gary,

I loved your article click here. More people have to stand up and protest. When the courts become a weapon against change then the trials have to become an attack on the courts. During prohibition it is a matter of statistics so many people have to go to prison in order to sort out this mess. Unfortunately, they are sending patients who are in pain to prison. My pain level remains at 10 because I refuse to take any zombie experimental government drugs. I would rather suck it up and cry tears of injustice than allow them to control my mind. The only way we can attempt to change things is through education so thank you for helping to educate. Most people don’t know what is going on and people continue to be dragged down in prison. It is a crime to put innocent patients in prison. I am currently writing about a DAY IN PRISON. It makes me cry to reread my notes.

I can’t really relate to anyone here. Most everyone here is here for stealing, really a hard one for me. I try to find the similarities instead of the differences but I can’t seem to find any. No-one got permission from the District Attorney, Chief of Police, all the county supervisors and the Capt. of the Narcotics like I did click here. This is fucked up. Pardon my french.

Thank you for writing. It is the only thing that brings me strength. I work in the kitchen from 5AM to 5PM then mail call. When my name is called it makes my spirit soar. So I am grateful to you for writing. Maybe we will meet someday when I am cut loose!

One Heart One Love,

Love & Light

Stephi

It only takes a couple minutes to write, and by doing so, we can lift the spirits of prisoners like Stephanie, who has given so much in this fight for justice. By writing a letter, we not only show our support, but help lift the spirits and make the time move a little faster for people unjustly imprisoned.

Stephanie’s address is:

Stephanie Landa 09247-800
Federal Prison Camp
5675 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568


Posted by Gary at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2007

Most 2008 U.S. presidential contenders remain medical marijuana cowards

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, February 25, 2007

As the list of candidates for the 2008 U.S. presidential election alternately expands and contracts, a quick look at the 2008 field reveals only a handful of contenders have gone on record in support of medical marijuana. Those candidates include Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM), and Steve Kubby, a medical cannabis patient and former candidate for California governor who is seeking the Libertarian nomination.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential GOP candidate, once supported medical marijuana early in his career as a GOP congressman in the early 1980’s click here. Where he stands today is anyone’s guess, but as Speaker he proposed the death penalty for anyone bringing over 50 grams of any illegal drug into the U.S., including pot click here. Democratic Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel’s website states he supports marijuana decriminalization and opposes jail for pot click here, but gives no specifics on medical cannabis. Former WI Governor/HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has not spoken out publicly, even as the federal health agency he led was sued by medical marijuana patients for disseminating misinformation on medical cannabis click here.

Of the supporters, Kucinich and Paul have been original cosponsors of the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act click here, and Paul has sponsored legislation legalizing industrial hemp click here. NM Gov. Richardson has supported medical marijuana efforts in the state legislature where a bill is pending now click here.

Kucinich even went so far as to issue the following statement after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Raich case.

Statement of Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich On: The Supreme Court Ruling on Medical Marijuana

Washington, Jun 6, 2005 - Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) issued the following statement today on the Supreme Court ruling against the use of medical marijuana:

"Today's ruling will deny people with life threatening and debilitating illnesses potential relief from their suffering.

"Medical marijuana has recognized therapeutic value, and the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine has recommended the use of medical marijuana in some cases. Those seeking medically necessary relief from horrific illnesses should not be treated as criminals.

"We already know that those suffering from cancer and chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases have found relief from medical marijuana.

"The fight over medical marijuana is nothing but a sideshow in the so-called 'war on drugs', and will do nothing to address the real drug problems facing our nation.

"Today's Supreme Court ruling highlights the need for Congress to act on the issue of medical marijuana. The federal government can no longer ignore the medicinal importance and efficacy of medical marijuana. That is why I am an original co-sponsored of HR 2087, a bill to provide for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States and will support amendments during the upcoming Appropriations process which address this issue."

###

While there is still much time before the 2008 elections, none of the top candidates has yet gone on record in support of medical cannabis as John Kerry did in 2004. Will the ultimate nominees be medical marijuana cowards or will they recognize that not only is this an issue with wide bipartisan support, but also that voters tend to support candidates who support medical marijuana. On the other hand, it speaks volumes when candidates like John Edwards, whose wife endured breast cancer, still remain cowards on this issue.

More to come as things progress…

Posted by Gary at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2007

Ticket for marijuana possession in Manitowoc?

Posted by Gary Storck
February 20, 2007

Hopeful signs from Manitowoc that the city may start ticketing first time pot offenders instead of filing criminal charges. It's interesting to note that the idea originated at a meeting of local police chiefs, and that a number of other municipalities are also planning to decriminalize.

Herald Times Reporter
February 20, 2007
By Kevin Braley

Ticket for marijuana possession?

Citation would be for first offense only

MANITOWOC — Possession of marijuana in Manitowoc might soon be an ordinance violation — meaning offenders would only be issued a city citation for the crime.

On Monday, the city's Public Property and Safety Committee discussed the possibility of giving police officers the choice of ticketing first-time marijuana possession offenders or sending them to circuit court to be charged with a misdemeanor.

Currently, all alleged offenders are charged in circuit court with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and face up to $1,000 in fines, six months in jail and a six month driver's license suspension, according to Manitowoc County District Attorney Mark Rohrer.

[snip]

Officers would have the option of ticketing first-time offenders caught with 8 grams or less of the drug. Anyone caught with more than 8 grams would automatically be charged with the misdemeanor, Rohrer said.

The second and subsequent offenses would be handled in circuit court, Rohrer said.

Having an ordinance would prevent a county circuit judge from expunging the offender's record after the sentence is served, Rohrer said.

A city citation can't be expunged, Rohrer said, which means the conviction would appear if there are any future offenses, and possibly increase those penalties.

The fines for the municipal citation for the proposal have not been set, according to Committee Chairman Paul Tittl.

The idea of a marijuana possession ordinance surfaced at a Manitowoc County Police Chief's meeting, Manitowoc Police Chief Perry Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury supports the proposal and said all county municipalities are likely to adopt similar ordinances.

Kiel already has a possession of marijuana ordinance, Kingsbury said, and Two Rivers Police Chief Joe Collins, who attended Monday's meeting, said he supports the idea.

[snip]

To read complete article: click here.

Speaking of cities with decrim...

I spoke with Madison's Mayor Dave at the Tammy Baldwin fundraiser at the trendy Sardine restaurant on Willy St. Monday evening. He was not aware of the situation with the Lankford case and the filing of felony distribution charges in the case click here. He said he'd look into it.

Now that Spring primary is over and the lineup for the general election set, hopefully we'll see some discussion about these absurd charges among the mayoral and council candidates. -- GS

Posted by Gary at 08:58 PM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2007

Dane County DA re-files alleged Harvest Fest joint-passing charge as felony distribution!

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friday evening, the Dane County District Attorney's office served Chris Lankford with a new complaint charging him with felony distribution of THC for passing an alleged joint at Harvest Fest 2006.

This action represents a significant emotional and financial hardship on Chris and his family. It also represents a slap in the face to the longstanding community standard expressed in Madison General Ordinance 23.20, passed by the voters of Madison on April 5, 1977. Please step up and help resist the strong-arm tactics of the Dane County District Attorney's office by making a donation to the Chris Lankford Defense Fund.

Donations should be sent to Steinberg Law Office, P.O. Box 2614, Madison, WI 53701, with notation "Chris Lankford Defense Fund."

Please remember, as a taxpayer, your money is already being spent by the DA to prosecute this case. Help even the odds and protect our right to peaceful assembly by sending your donation today!

Posted by Gary at 06:50 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2007

Capital Times: Judge opens door to felony in pot case

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Below is the report by the Cap Times' Mike Miller on yesterday's hearing. The next step will be up to the Dane County DA. The silver lining is that if the case proceeds, it should be much warmer the next time we have to protest at the Courthouse.

Source: Capital Times
Pubdate: February 15, 2007
Author: Mike Miller

JUDGE OPENS DOOR TO FELONY IN POT CASE

A minor drug case in which a Madison man faced a misdemeanor for passing a marijuana joint during a pot rally could soon escalate to felony charges.

Dane County Circuit Judge Patrick Fiedler has granted a prosecutor's request to dismiss a misdemeanor marijuana case Wednesday so that it can be refiled as a felony.

Fiedler, citing previous rulings by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, said prosecutors have broad discretion over filing charges and can use any statute that is applicable to the facts.

Chris Lankford, 31, of Madison, was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana at last fall's Great Marijuana Harvest Fest after a UW police officer saw him pass a joint to a friend during a parade.

When searched after his arrest, Lankford was found to have another five joints in his pocket along with one partially smoked joint.

After Lankford turned down a plea bargain offer, Assistant District Attorney Karie Cattanach moved to dismiss the misdemeanor charge so she could file a felony charge against Lankford for delivery of marijuana.

Defense attorney Peter Steinberg tried to stop that Wednesday, but Fiedler ruled the decision of what to charge was up to the prosecution.

After the hearing Steinberg issued a statement saying: "I will not comment on the specific facts of Mr. Lankford's case, but I will say this: The time is long overdue for the Hillary Clinton liberals to admit that the Dirty F--- Hippies are right - marijuana prohibition is dumb."

He also said he may try to appeal.

- Mike Miller

A little over a month ago on January 7th, the Cap Times published an article, "District attorneys outnumbered by growing caseloads" click here.

The article includes the following:

Since taking the job as Dane County district attorney, has become used to making do with less.

Now the District Attorney's Office is getting hit with yet another staff reduction. Four of Blanchard's most experienced prosecutors -- Gretchen Hayward, Jac Heitz, Meryl Manhardt and John Norsetter -- are retiring, and a loss of federal money means they won't all be replaced.

"Assuming that we don't lose any more grants this year, we get to hire two to replace the four," Blanchard said.

With the number of cases coming into the office unabated at more than 40,000 a year, Blanchard sees tough times ahead.

"Handling the existing caseloads with fewer attorneys is going to be a unique problem," he said. "It's going to be a problem on a scale that this office has not faced ever before."

Until he can hire the two new attorneys in June and July, Blanchard said he has tapped state funds that will allow him to hire two temporary special prosecutors.

When the dust settles, Blanchard expects to have a staff of 29 attorneys, four fewer than he had when he was first elected to the job in 2000, and the same number the county had in 1988, when the county's population was just under 340,000. It's now over 460,000.

With the population growth comes more cases. Law enforcement has kept pace, growing from 674 sworn officers in 1985 to about 1,200 in 2005. So there are more officers shoveling more cases to fewer prosecutors.

Blanchard said it's affecting the quality of justice.

"As our resources shrink we're charging less," he said. "What we charge is being changed to some degree by our resource problems. This is particularly true in areas like domestic violence where there are a lot of judgment calls to be made and there are only so many hours in the day."

Wise words. There are only so many prosecutors and so many hours in a day. This case should have never been filed and has already consumed far too much of the DA's admittedly strained resources. If the case is refiled, Blanchard's comments ring pretty hollow.

Posted by Gary at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

Picket at Courthouse before hearing, Judge rules as expected

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More than a half dozen people, myself included, braved below zero windchills to picket the Dane County Courthouse this morning before the hearing in the Lankford case. I had a prior committment, so could not attend the hearing itself, but have some news.

One of those present was PurplePenquin, who posted this brief report of the hearing on a discussion of yesterday's Cap Times article on the madison.com forums click here:

Regarding the hearing today, the judge denied the motion to remove Assistant DA Cattanach from the case. The misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana was dismissed without prejudice. Atty Steinberg requested that an Order be written, in order to open up the possibilty of appeal. The Judge agreed to that request.

This ain't over yet people...unless the DA's office wants it to be over.

Ben Masel, appearing earlier this afternoon on Sly's show on WTDY, reported Judge Fiedler granted the motion to dismiss and stated that the threat to dismiss and refile did not constitute "coercion".

And here is a copy of Atty. Peter Steinberg's press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

From: Steinberg Law Office, LLC

Re: State v. Lankford, Dane County Case No. 06 CM 3643

Attorney Peter Steinberg, who represents defendant Chris Lankford, made the following statement:

"I will not comment on the specific facts of Mr. Lankford's case, but I will say this: The time is long overdue for the Hillary Clinton Liberals to admit that the Dirty Fucking Hippies are right - Marijuana Prohibition is Dumb!"

Peter Steinberg

And now, everyone seems to be asking just how far DA Brian Blanchard will let ADA Karie Cattanach stick his foot into the wood chipper on this case? More soon...

Posted by Gary at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007

Capital Times: Marijuana case lights up court -- Pro-pot group plans protests at hearing

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mike Miller from the Cap Times wrote this article today on tomorrow's hearing. This should help enlighten Dane County taxpayers on the wasteful priorities of the Dane County D.A.'s office almost 30 years after Madison voters said cannabis possession is not a crime.

Please come down to the new Courthouse Wednesday and stick up for Madison's long tradition of cannabis tolerance.

Source: Capital Times
Pubdate: 13 February 2007
Author: Mike Miller

MARIJUANA CASE LIGHTS UP COURT

Pro-pot group plans protests at hearing

A minor marijuana charge could generate some heat in the Dane County courthouse Wednesday as Circuit Court Judge Patrick Fiedler rules on a motion in which the prosecution and defense seemed to have switched sides.

The prosecution has moved to dismiss without prejudice a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana and resisting an officer against Chris Lankford, 31, of Madison, who was charged with passing a joint to D. Dutilly, 23, during last year's 36th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival in Madison.

Oddly, it would seem, defense attorney Peter Steinberg is opposing the motion to dismiss. But both Steinberg and Assistant District Attorney Karie Cattanach, who is prosecuting the case, have reasons for their positions on the dismissal issue.

As in most small-time drug cases, Cattanach offered the defense a deal in the case that would involve Lankford, who has no prior criminal record, pleading guilty or no contest but he had to accept the deal by the time of the final pretrial conference.

When Lankford declined the deal, Cattanach moved to dismiss so she could refile the case as a felony charge of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Steinberg contended that was a vindictive action and at one point asked that Fiedler remove Cattanach from the case, which Fiedler declined to do.

In briefs filed with the court, Cattanach said "there has been no vindictiveness on the part of the state," and that "the defendant was given an offer that fully stated if rejected at the final pretrial the state would issue felony charges. That is what the state now seeks to do."

But that position also infuriates members of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and other pro-marijuana activists.

"Why is this even before the court?" asks Gary Storck, one of the co-founders of the Madison branch of NORML. "Dane County is facing a money shortage. Why is it being wasted on this?"

Storck and others plan to picket the courthouse in protest before the 11:30 hearing in Fiedler's court, then hope to have several people attend the hearing in support of Lankford.

"People are really angry about this. They feel victimized," Storck said. "It could have been any of them" who were arrested during the annual protest of marijuana laws.

Lankford and Dutilly were arrested at the start of the parade when University of Wisconsin Police Officer Michael Mansavage saw Lankford slip a joint to Dutilly.

When Mansavage searched Lankford, according to his report on the incident, he found five more whole joints and one half-smoked joint on Lankford and arrested him. Dutilly was also arrested and his case is set for a plea hearing, indicating he accepted a plea deal.

Mansavage is one of two UW officers who arrested and pepper-sprayed longtime activist and marijuana advocate Ben Masel as he gathered signatures for his run for the U.S. Senate at the Memorial Union last summer. Masel is fighting a trespassing ticket in that case and also plans to file a civil lawsuit in the near future.

Storck said neither the State Capitol police nor the City of Madison police made any arrests at the march and festival in October and that people have been smoking marijuana as a protest at the events for more than 30 years.

Citing recent violence in the city, Storck said that "people don't feel safe on the streets of Madison, but they don't feel threatened by a guy smoking a joint."

Steinberg has also filed a motion to suppress evidence in the case, a motion which will be heard later if Fiedler declines to dismiss the case. In that motion Steinberg contends that while Lankford was being held at the UW Police station he asked for a pen and paper to write down notes to later give to his lawyer. Mansavage copied those notes, even though they were privileged communications between Lankford and his lawyer, Steinberg alleges.

Mansavage's report concedes he copied the notes and kept the copies in the case file.

Posted by Gary at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2007

Dane County -- Felony for one joint?

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, February 12, 2007

On Sunday October 8, 2006, attendees of the 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival lined up to begin the traditional annual parade from Library Mall to the State Capitol. I was at the head of the march when someone reported police were making an arrest farther back in line just as the parade was departing. Other sketchy reports from onlookers failed to immediately clarify the situation. The next day reports in the local media reported no arrests. Eventually the truth came out.

It seems that University police officer Mike Mansavage* had arrested an individual reportedly seen passing a hand-rolled cigarette to a friend.

So, as around 1500 marchers joyfully paraded up State St., two were left behind, arrested on pot charges, handcuffed and jailed for allegations of having a little pot in the year 2007 in Madison.

According to case law, possession of a hand-rolled cigarette is not probable cause for arrest. The fact that two arrests were made is a complete waste of University Police resources.

But it gets worse! While the legality of the search has not yet been settled, Dane County Assistant District Attorney Karie Cattanach will be seeking to re-file felony distribution charges, after the defendant refused to plead to a misdemeanor for the allegation of passing a single joint, at a hearing this Wednesday.

Why is the ex-UW girl’s basketball hoopster Cattanach wasting our tax dollars prosecuting someone for a joint? Isn’t there enough real crime to keep her occupied? Does Cattanach, who also moonlights as the Badger Women's Basketball color analyst for Wisconsin Public Television. click here, really feel she is wisely using the overburdened Dane County courts by seeking to wreck someone’s life for a single joint in the year 2007 in Madison?

This arrest and prosecution are a slap in the face to this city’s longstanding community standard of cannabis tolerance. In an advisory referendum in Nov. 1976, Madison voters signaled they supported the legalization of cannabis.

Then, on April 5, 1977, 30 years ago this year, Madison voters passed Madison General Ordinance 23.20 which decriminalized public possession. Ordinance 23.20 begins with this statement:

1) Purpose. The people of Madison specifically determine that the regulations herein contained concerning marijuana and cannabis are necessary to serve the ethical purpose of providing just and equitable legal treatment of the citizens of this community and to preserve the respect of such citizens for law, its process, and its administration.

ADA Cattanach’s mean-spirited prosecution flies in the face of the will of the people, and we cannot let this stand.

THIS WEDNEDAY, Valentines Day, we need as many people as possible to make it to the new Dane County Courthouse located in downtown Madison at 215 S Hamilton St Madison WI 53703 click here.

The hearing in the case, State v Chris Lankford, will be held at 11:30 AM before Judge Patrick Fiedler 11:30 AM, Branch 8, 8th Floor.

Visitors to the courthouse must pass through a metal detector, so please arrive a few minutes early to have time to pass through before the hearing begins.

Better yet, please come out Wednesday at 11 and join a picket in front of the Courthouse, and for the hearing at 11:30, and stick up for Chris Lankford and Madison’s tradition of cannabis tolerance and against this wasteful and cruel prosecution!

*Officer Mansavage is the same cop who pepper-sprayed Ben Masel for collecting signatures for his U.S. Senate challenge to Herb Kohl last June on the Union Terrace.

Posted by Gary at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2007

Second Concert for Medical Cannabis to rock Tripp Commons this Sunday Feb. 11th

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, February 9, 2007

Tripp Commons in the UW-Madison Memorial Union will once again be the location of the Concert for Medical Cannabis, this Sunday Feb. 11, from 4:00 pm to 11:30 pm. The event is presented by Students for Sensible Drug Policy UW Madison (SSDP) in association with Madison NORML.

The musical lineup is as follows (in order of appearance)

* Disliking Silence (rock)
* Digital Dose (electronic)
* Hanah Jon Taylor (jazz)
* Elf Lettuce (jam rock)
* Baghdad Scuba Review (progressive rock)
* Nama Rupa (reggae, rock)

Many thanks to these artists for donating their time and services for this worthy event!

In addition, the event will feature several speakers, medical cannabis informational tabling, videos and vending. Madison NORML's Madsterdam Fair Trade Coffee from Just Coffee will also be available for purchase as well as Madison NORML t-shirts and other merchandise. Chair massages will be offered for a donation.

Please join us Sunday in Tripp Commons, Memorial Union 800 Langdon Street Madison, WI 53706. Free admission.

Posted by Gary at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)