|Beth Ruyak: It has been called the Eagle Scouts of medical marijuana facilities, but a recent series of felony charges may change all that. The Santa Clara County Medical Cannabis Center has stopped taking new patients, and there are indications it may close it’s doors. Please welcome this morning, Peter Baez, the clubs executive director, and his attorney, Ricardo Ippolito. Did I say that right, Ricardo?Ricardo Ippolito: Yes, that’s fine, thanks.
Beth Ruyak: O.K. Good morning to both of you.
Peter Baez: Good morning.
Ricardo Ippolito: Good morning.
Beth Ruyak: Peter, let me start by asking, with all the choices of all the different things a person could do in his or her life, why is it that this what you have chosen to do?
Peter Baez: Well, because I believe in the cause of helping others who are down and who are in need, and that’s been a history in my family for generations, from the Baez’, from the sixties, for the civil rights movement up to today to the medical marijuana movement and it’s just something I was brought up to do and I wanted to do it.
Beth Ruyak: There was the arrest in late March, and this week five new felony charges were added after a court appearance. How has that impacted those beliefs and your plans?
Peter Baez: It soured them considerably. I’m very discouraged by what’s happening to me, I’m certainly not discouraged about my innocence. My attorney can certainly speak about that, but, uh, it has discouraged me and broken my heart basically because I feel I’m doing something right, not something wrong, and, there’s never been any criminal intent on my part or anybody at my center.
Beth Ruyak: Your facility was considered a model for facilities like this. I know you worked hand in hand with officials in terms of setting it up. Did the charges and the arrest come as a surprise to you?
Peter Baez: Oh, absolutely. You know, I sent a farewell fax to Chief Cobarruviaz on the Friday before I was arrested because it was his retirement, and the next working day with the new interim police chief, that afternoon I was arrested, uh, stemming from an allegation that I sold, took marijuana to somebody who did not qualify, who incidentally bought the marijuana out on the street and not at our center. So, yes, this is a complete surprise to me and the behavior of the Santa Clara County D.A. and the police department, the way they are handling this, is absolutely outrageous.
Beth Ruyak: So, were you illegally selling or distributing marijuana?
Peter Baez: Absolutely not. I would never chance 1, 10, 20 patients, to my 270 patients. Never would. Never would compromise any of that. And we’ve been tested by the federal government, the San Jose police, the Santa Clara County Task Force on Drugs; they try to infiltrate our center, as they have other medical marijuana centers throughout the Bay Area, and we’re the only ones that they did not succeed, as far as I know, otherwise I’d probably be charged with that also right now.
Beth Ruyak: Peter, let me ask your attorney, Ricardo, and Peter just mentioned the 270 patients, and files were confiscated. Is that legal and what can you do to protect the patients of this clinic?
Ricardo Ippolito: Well, at this point, that’s going to involve a civil action against the police department, for the invasion of privacy of their files. There’s a – - the law is pretty hazy in that respect. The District Attorney is calling the files client files instead of patient files, and they are trying to get around the confidentiality privilege.
Beth Ruyak: What about the charges against Peter? Will they hold, will they stick?
Ricardo Ippolito: No. They’re not going to. We have ample evidence of Mr. Baez’ innocence. A ton of evidence. The problem is the doctors, though. You know, they’re put in a tight position because if they admit to recom- mending the marijuana, then they could be prosecuted federally. So they have a choice of jeopardizing their license, or coming to Peter’s aid.
Beth Ruyak: Actually Peter, I have you heard you speak out over the last week that that’s really the catch here, is that doctors aren’t willing to stand firm on their recommendations, whether they’re verbal or written, regarding a patient.
Peter Baez: Absolutely. You know, it’s a real hazy line with the oral recommendations because it’s allowable under 215 but, regardless of, as long as a federal threat looms over any physician who writes, recommends, talks about medical marijuana to his or her patient, the federal government, McCaffery and Janet Reno, have threatened to not only prevent them from writing prescriptions for morphine and Schedule II drugs, but also to take away their Medicaid privileges and Medicare, and, you know, a doctor can’t afford to lose that, so who’s gonna be the fall person? I hope it’s not gonna be me, because I have ample proof that I have done nothing wrong.
Beth Ruyak: But at this point, you are intending to step down, and will the center be closed?
Peter Baez: Well, I want to get out of this, because it’s taken a toll on my health, and the stress is just beyond – I’ve lost some weight, my blood counts are completely off, dramatically, just from the past two weeks. My partner Jesse (sp), is also HIV, does not want to go in this without me behind him, and he has enough health problems where he doesn’t need this. We felt we gave our all for the past year, to the San Jose and the Santa Clara County officials. We turned in five forgers. I kept meticulous books and accounted for everything that’s come through. We have a Federal tax I.D. We have a pending 501.C3. You know, what more can one do, and then if they’re gonna treat you this way, what is the sense of either cooperating with them or staying open? I feel bad that the people who are gonna get hurt are the people who are sick and dying, but that should lay on the shoulders of the D.A.s office now because I can’t do anything about it. I have to look out for myself now.
Beth Ruyak: Well, your health is more in jeopardy now, perhaps, than it has ever been. Tell me about the blessings that you have been getting from your cousin, Joan Baez?
Peter Baez: Yeah. She’s great. We’ve always been very close. She lives in Woodside, I live in Gilroy. You know, she called me the day after my arrest. She had heard it. She was playing in Carnegie Hall that night, and she was just outraged, and I can’t get into exactly the comments she made since we’re on live TV, but she was absolutely outraged and sent a press statement in regards to my innocence and my character, and also did sing in my name at Carnegie Hall that “We Shall Overcome”. So, she’s a great person; she’ll be back in the Bay Area towards the end of the month, and I’m sure that she will come to court with me if I need anybody as a character witness. She’ll be there.
Beth Ruyak: And just quickly, what is the next step in the legal process? Ricardo, what’s the next date?
Peter Baez: May 6th.
Ricardo Ippolito: The next date is May 6th, and that’s just a preliminary setting date where we’re gonna set a preliminary hearing from that date.
Beth Ruyak: O.K.
Peter Baez: I’d like to let you know one thing, uh, our clients have, you know, been besieging us with “what can we do? what can we do?…to help you”, and, uh, you know, they’re wonderful people, and next Tuesday…the San Jose City Council meets on Tuesdays…a couple hundred of them want to be at the city council meeting, a nonagendized hearing meeting, and complain to the city council and to the mayor as to the actions of the police department, and why the mayor has not said a single word about what has gone on with me. So, uh, anybody in the Bay Area who wants to support us, we’d like your support. But, please, we do not allow the smoking of marijuana outside or inside the premises; I think that’s against the rules. But we do ask for your support.
Beth Ruyak: O.K. Peter Baez. Our strength to you as your own health battles continue…
Peter Baez: Thank you.
Beth Ruyak: …and Ricardo Ippolito, thank you for both joining us this morning.
Peter Baez: Thank you very much.
Ricardo Ippolito: Thank you.
This transcription was created by scott richie for Winky. Source: WINKSLINKS