After Six Years Out, Man Put Back In Prison To Finish 10-Year Pot Term


Photo: Noah Berger/AP
Ashley Epis’s dad is going back to federal prison — for growing medical marijuana, which has been legal in California since 1996. “I want everybody to know that my dad is not a criminal,” she said.

‚ÄčA California man has been taken back into custody after almost six years of freedom to finish the remainder of his 10-year prison sentence for growing medical marijuana.

Bryan James Epis, 42, of Chico, Calif., was remanded into custody based on a 2002 jury trial conviction for “conspiracy to manufacture at least 1,000 marijuana plants within 1,000 feet of a school, and the manufacture of at least 100 marijuana plants within 1,000 feet of a school.”

California Cannabis Research Medical Group
Bryan Epis with daughter Ashley after his initial release on appeal from the federal penitentiary at Lompoc in August 2004

‚ÄčEpis already served about 2-1/2 years of his sentence before being released on bail on August 9, 2004, pending appeal by the appellate court, reports the Corning Observer.
Epis has been out of prison since that time while he litigated his re-sentencing before U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr., in his appeal to the 9th Circuit Court.
Epis’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied on January 19.
During the court battle after his conviction, Epis argued that he was protected from federal prosecution by California’s medical marijuana law, Proposition 215. All of the federal courts rejected Epis’s medical marijuana claims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Wong told the court that Epis’s case did not involve medical marijuana under Prop 215. Wong claimed that Epis had manufactured and sold marijuana before the California law was even enacted, and that Epis’s marijuana dispensary was in violation of California law.
Earlier in the case, prosecutors presented evidence, including a business plan that Epis designed, projecting expected millions of dollars from the sale of marijuana to thousands of patients through his dispensary, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Judge Damrell rejected Epis’s request to remain out of custody and ordered his immediate remand. His remand into custody marks the end of the trial-and-appeals stage of the prosecution.
The pot-hating Butte County Sheriff’s Department and Butte County District Attorney’s Office, along with the California Department of Justice, received the simpering approbation of U.S. Attorney Wagner for “their cooperative efforts in providing investigative support throughout this lengthy and complicated case.”
Translation: “Thank you to county and state officials for actively working to undermine and thwart the will of the people of California as clearly expressed through Prop 215. The Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration appreciate your treachery.”