By Sam Sabzehzar
Hundreds of people gathered in Sacramento to support two medical cannabis patients who were facing Bush-era marijuana charges and were denied a medical defense.
Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer, had no choice but to surrender themselves when their final pleas fell on deaf ears.
Mollie is a physician and a breast cancer survivor who underwent a radical mastectomy in 1997. When more common drugs meant to deal with the effects of chemotherapy didn’t work, Mollie turned to medical cannabis.
California campaign director and Americans for Safe Access co-founder, Don Duncan, says that “in the larger political picture… the Obama Administration has indicated a change in policy and we’ve yet to see any follow-through.”
“There’ve been over 70 DEA raids, more than 20 indictments, and now Dr. Fry and Dale Schafer have to hand their freedom over for five years, which is a death sentence for Mollie. We at Americans for Safe Access ask that anyone who hears this message urge President Obama to live up to his promise, and to do something different with medical cannabis.”
After her oncologist, who agreed with her use of medical cannabis, refused to provide Mollie with written approval, she quickly learned that the struggle for patients was finding doctors who were willing to recommend its use. Mollie soon thereafter, with encouragement from the local sheriff, started a specialized clinic for medical cannabis patients.
Dale, an attorney, is also a qualified patient who has treated the effects of his hemophilia and chronic back pain and has been active for years in the medical cannabis movement, even running for El Dorado County District Attorney in 2001. Dale began cultivating Mollie’s medication and eventually also provided it to a handful of local patients for free, with the consent of the sheriff and in full compliance with California law and even provided classes and the equipment for patients to be able to cultivate their own medication.
The same year that Dale announced his candidacy for district attorney, he helpedestablish medical cannabis cultivation guidelines for the county.
Also in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that medical necessity could not be used as a defense in federal court, at which point Dale abruptly stopped providing medical cannabis to other patients. Nevertheless, on September 28, 2001, more than 20 state and federal agents with guns drawn raided the home and offices of Mollie and Dale.
Only 34 plants and less than 2 pounds were seized in the raid, but agents turned their home and offices upside down and additionally seized Mollie’s private patient records.
No indictments resulted from the 2001 raid until less than 3 weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2005 that the government could enforce federal marijuana laws even in medical marijuana states.
On June 22, 2005, Mollie and Dale were arrested and charged federally with manufacturing and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. Although Dale never grew more than 44 plants in a given year, well below the local 99-plant guideline, the federal government was able to add up the plants he had grown over a multi-year period in order to seek a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence associated with growing more than 100 plants.
Several news agencies also on hand in Sacramento, including Pacifica Radio where KPFA and KPFK aired coverage throughout the state as Dr. Fry and Dale Schafer surrendered themselves to a Federal court.
Don Duncan explains their last few moments with family as “one particularly poignant moment. “Dr. Fry took off her jewelry, her ring and her cross necklace, and gave it to her daughter for safe keeping for five years… before they had to surrender and start their sentence,” relives Don.
The Los Angeles rally, which included the delivery of a Cease and Desist Letter the local DEA office that Americans for Safe Access had previously put out, this time specifically referencing the Fry-Schafer case, found around twenty five people gathered, although only ten were allowed to accompany the letter.
Marcy Winograd, the founder of the Progressive Democrats of America’s Los Angeles chapter, is a school teacher and community organizer. She also happens to be a California Congressional Candidate fighting for Jane Harmen’s early vacated seat.
Winograd spoke to the crowd before delivering the letter, and asked everyone in attendance to contact their elected representatives and educate them on the issue.
Marcy breaks it down for the crowd that “every dollar that is spent incarcerating Mollie and Dale is a dollar taken away from a teacher, or from that teacher’s student.”
Winograd, who’s mother was a medical cannabis patient in the last moments of her life, shared how her mother was able to enjoy her last few months with her family. A gift that ever person would be so lucky to receive.
The policy of the federal government should not be what stands in the way of a family moment suspending their suffering, arresting it.
Instead, as Tupac said, “they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.”
Libertarian Congressional Candidate Steve Collett was also at the Los Angeles event to show his solidarity for the couple and their family.
“When are we going to stop spending money going after medical marijuana patients? Stop investigating them, harassing them, arresting them, and definitely stop incarcerating medical marijuana patients.
The weight of this injustice has caught national attention and even Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson issued the following statement:
“The Fry-Schafer case is a perfect exhibit in the argument for legalizing marijuana. With the challenges facing the nation today, it is absurd that the federal government is spending its time and our dollars raiding, arresting and prosecuting individuals for activities deemed legal under state law. Do they not have better things to do? Prohibition is creatingvictims needlessly, and not protecting anyone from anything.” ~ Gary Johnson, 2012 Presidential Candidate
Partially directing his comments towards the disparaging penalties facing patients in states like Oklahoma, which has a mandatory minimum sentence of two years to life for the cultivation of just one plant, Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, illustrated the ever-growing gap “between states that allow access to medical cannabis, and a federal government that still largely has it’s head in the sand.”
Elaborating his point and contrasting it with medical cannabis laws in California, St. Pierre pontificated, “What these two have been charged with and been successfully prosecuted for, would confuse the average person… in california, in fifty percent of the counties, thousands and thousands of people are growing, packaging, marketing, and selling medical cannabis, and it strikes one as being a selective prosecution to just have these two people, a husband and wife team, a doctor and a lawyer, to be sacrificed on the alter. For what? A drug-free California?”
Meanwhile, inside the Los Angeles DEA office, DEA agents that were hosting the ten ‘delegates’ were busy answering questions they clearly did not know the answer to.
When one patient asked if they Drug Enforcement Agency understood how the drug affects an Endocannabinoid System, to which one agent admitted he had never heard of. Another agent admitted she had, but that she’s not a physician and couldn’t speak about marijuana like that.
We also asked if they were familiar with the Odgen Memo, which again was met with mixed results ending in a blank stare and a diplomatic retreat behind their gated community of glass windows.
Don Duncan helps put it into perspective by adding that “in the larger political picture… the Obama Administration has indicated a change in policy and we’ve yet to see any follow through. There’ve been over 70 DEA raids, more than 20 indictment, and now of course We’ve seen a continuation of the Bush Administration policy and now Mollie and Dale, it time to call on the Obama Administration to live up to their promise, and to do something different with medical cannabis.”
Orange County NORML and OC ASA, along with other patient advocacy groups like the Landa Prison Outreach Program, which facilitates letter-writing campaign and was founded by former federal prisoner and medical marijuana patient Stephanie Landa.
Mieko Perez, who will be featured on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer for her work with medical marijuana and autism with her son Joey, was also on hand to lend her support for patient’s rights.
Other cities across the country held their own rallies or issued ASA’s Cease and Desist Letter, from San Diego to Spokane and all the way to Washington D.C., in the hopes that there will be two more empty beds in America’s federal prisons very soon.
Until then, a family is separated and two medical marijuana patients sit in cold rooms, away from the warmth of the love that sent them off to their new home for the next five years, or until Eric Holder and the Obama Administration grant clemency to Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer, Esq., who leave behind their family of 5 children and 2 grandchildren, and expect their third in the fall.
There is a website for the family if anyone would like to donate a message of support, which speaks loudest as a financial donation since the case was dragged on for a decade.