One of many maddeningly absurdities of the War on Drugs is how we treat the people who were once “criminals” when their past activities are no longer “crimes.”

Consider the marijuana prisoners in Washington and Colorado. There will be men and women serving time -- not just federal, but state time -- for cultivating marijuana plants, processing, transporting and selling them as part of a commercial marijuana operation. Meanwhile, already in Colorado and soon in Washington, men and women will be licensed to legally cultivate marijuana plants, process, transport and sell them as part of a commercial marijuana operation.

Eddy Lepp currently sits in a federal prison in Colorado for doing what is going on in countless Denver warehouse grows.

Some might make the argument that those activities were illegal in the past and those men and women need to serve their time. Why? What is the purpose of their continued incarceration, to send a message to never grow and sell marijuana again? What is the net societal gain in taxpayer funding of the continued incarceration of successful illegal marijuana cultivators and sellers who could be contributing members of society, paying taxes by legally cultivating and selling marijuana?

The further you dig into this rabbit hole the more absurd it becomes. Did you know almost all the 21 medical marijuana states ban someone who has been busted for growing marijuana from becoming medical caregivers and working in or owning a dispensary? In many cases, the person was busted for a personal grow and many of those were for medical purposes before any medical marijuana laws existed. Where is the logic in banning some of the best medical growers in a state from helping sick people because they were helping sick people before it was legal? Don’t we want to encourage good growers to follow the law rather than forcing them to make their living illegally?

Apparently not, if this latest press release from my friend Lynnette Shaw is any indication. I met Lynnette many summers ago at some cannabis event. She was fierce and brash and ebullient as she joined me for a podcast interview, explaining about her work with the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), one of the first dispensaries to help those who were now called “medical marijuana patients” in 1997 just after California passed the Compassionate Use Act.

I remember Lynnette’s zeal to fight Uncle Sam on the medical marijuana issue. She had such hope and determination and just knew that with the right legal strategy, an eye on the Constitution, and proper education of elected officials, she and the rest of the Bay Area medical marijuana community could change the world… and they did!

But not without great personal cost. The feds attacked Lynnette and MAMM with every alphabet soup agency in their drug war arsenal. The feds went after MAMM’s building’s landlord and had it seized through asset forfeiture. The IRS, treating her like Al Capone, used tax law to bankrupt her, even seizing her Social Security. The courts, to heap insult upon injury, then declared she was banned for life from working in, consulting for, or selling to any legal cannabis business.

Understand that for over a decade, Lynnette was working with city and county officials, trying to stay well within California’s state laws and guidelines, paying taxes and getting business licenses, and was generally considered by patients, officials and neighbors to be operating a top-notch facility, a standard-bearer for what legal, regulated medical marijuana in California could be.

The Lynnette I saw at the most recent event was humbled and contrite, cautious and weary. But even after all her work helping patients has been rewarded with personal devastation, she still keeps fighting to get back into her passion -- helping sick and disabled people. Help support Lynnette Shaw in her fight to remove the lifetime injunction that is unjust and cruel, unnecessarily burdens patients, and essentially leaves her without a career.


Lynnette Shaw created the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax California in 1997. It was the first legal/licensed/registered/taxpaying medical cannabis dispensary in the country. It operated trouble-free, working closely with local police and Town/County/State officials, until the Federal Government closed it down in Dec. 2011.

"My top notch legal team advises me that the time is right to seek dissolution of my Federal permanent civil injunction that is cruel, unusual and unique." stated Lynnette Shaw. "I fought like a wildcat from the Delta to preserve our patients' rights for over 15 years. The Feds finally crushed MAMM by instituting a forfeiture action against our landlord. They set every enforcement agency against me including the IRS. The IRS retroactively removed my tax deductions after 15 years then zeroed out my Social Security. I am bankrupt.

"However, the Town of Fairfax is willing to stand up for all the work I did for over 15 years. They want me back! More importantly, our members need the return of MAMM. I have no husband or children, no relatives close by. The patients were my family. All I am asking is to be able to return to work for the many patients here in Marin that have nowhere to turn for medical cannabis. I deserve to be allowed to serve the community again, after protecting everyone except myself from the Feds and going down with the ship, in the name of love and compassion.

“I am informed that since MAMM closed, County health facilities are inundated with seriously ill patients who no longer have access to medical cannabis which they had used successfully to treat their symptoms. As well, I am informed that there has been a proliferation of street-drug dealers in Marin since MAMM was closed. Of course, these drug dealers are unregulated, as are their wares.

“There are currently thousands of licensed dispensaries in 21 states operating successfully. My time to be freed has come.

“We intend to ask Judge Breyer to dissolve the injunction in the name of public interest and my Constitutional rights. There is a good future in legal medical marijuana. I am interviewing potential business partners/investors/donors who wish to see the recovery of the Marin Alliance and its time-tested and successful dispensary system."

Lynnette Shaw can be reached at 323.877.8420 and by email

Any donations of much needed legal funds can be sent directly to lead attorney Greg Anton 415-789-8535; email Greg Mr. Anton is also available for comment.

"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.