Monday, October 11, 2010

James Stacy Prosecution Continues; Federal Trial to start in November

By: Eugene Davidovich

SAN DIEGO – In March of 2009, the current administration announced “they would not prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers whose actions are consistent with state medical marijuana laws.” At least that’s what the California Legislative Analyst told Californians in the voters guide for the November 2010 elections. (1)

Approximately six month after the Presidential announcement in October of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo urging all federal prosecutors and other agencies to “not focus federal resources in States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana”. (2)

A month prior to the October 2009 DOJ memo and only ten weeks after opening, James Stacy was charged in federal court following a raid on the Movement in Action dispensing collective in Vista, CA, making him the first medical marijuana provider to be tried under the new federal policy.

The dispensary was raided on 9/9/9 the same day over a dozen other medical marijuana dispensaries were raided in San Diego County as part of District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis’ fierce fight against medical marijuana patients, dubbed by her office as “Operation Green Rx”.

A few weeks prior to the raid, an undercover detective armed with a legitimate medical marijuana recommendation and a valid California ID came into the collective, presented all the appropriate paperwork, completed the membership agreements, and was allowed to join.

The detective posing as a legitimate patient was distributed a small amount of medicine and prior to leaving asked Stacy if he could contribute to the effort with labor and not just financially. According to police reports, Stacy welcomed the offer and told the undercover specifically what he could do around the facility that did not involve a financial contribution.

Stacy is the only defendant from the September raids who was charged in federal court, has refused all deals, and has taken his case to trial. The reason for his case going to federal court where he has no defense versus state where he would have been found in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law, still remains a mystery, and is a question the U.S. Attorney prosecuting Stacy has refused to answer.

In a recent article on change.org, Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group wrote, “In many ways, James Stacy is no different than hundreds of other dispensary operators in California. In fact, most federal defendants take plea bargains and never go to trial, mainly because they know they will have no defense against their charges. Truth has been taken out of federal trials to appease government prosecutors and the DEA in their effort to undermine state medical marijuana laws.” (3)

Much like other federal cases, in Stacy’s case, U.S. District Court Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz precluded him from presenting any evidence of medical marijuana in the trial (5), including barring the defense from talking about the Presidential announcement of March 2009, the DOJ memo issued in October of 2009 as well as the fact that Movement in Action was a medical marijuana dispensary operating in full compliance with state law.

Judge Moskowitz ruled that any reasonable man or woman having read or heard the memo and announcement would NOT have interpreted them to mean that the Federal government was changing their policy with regards to medical marijuana prosecutions. It would appear that under this ruling, the California Legislative Analyst as well as the hundreds of thousands of citizens who understood the announcements to mean "they would not prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers whose actions are consistent with state medical marijuana laws", are not reasonable.

Since the ordeal began in September of 2009 Stacy’s case has garnered national attention and outrage from thousands of patients across the state who believed the administration’s announcements and thought the Federal intervention in State’s medical marijuana laws was over.

Stacy himself has become an outspoken advocate of patient’s rights and HR 3939 the “Truth in Trials Act”, which if passed by Congress would allow federal defendants to present “evidence during trial that the activities they were engaged in were performed in compliance with their state’s duly-enacted medical marijuana laws.” (6)

In response to Stacy’s activism, and refusal to accept a deal, the U.S. Attorney’s throughout the last year filed three indictments against Mr. Stacy turning the original counts into eight trumped up charges.

The latest charges include ‘distribution of a controlled substance to someone under twenty one’. The prosecution claims they found two patients in the dispensary records that were ‘underage’. One of the patients was nineteen and the other twenty years old at the time of their membership.

The other charge in the most recent indictment was one not heard of before in these types of cases, a charge for being an ‘Illegal drug user’. The prosecution claims that since Stacy admitted to being a medical marijuana patient and because there is no allowed medical use of marijuana under federal law, that he was an ‘Illegal’ drug user.

After the most recent superseding indictment, the defense filed several motions asking the court to dismiss the trumped up charges as well as to address the vindictiveness of the prosecution against Stacy.

On Wednesday of last week, Stacy was back in court, where Judge Moskowitz heard oral arguments regarding the motions filed by the defense. Kasha Castillo, Stacy’s Federal Public Defender argued that there was no clear definition in the law about what constitutes a ‘legal’ versus an ‘Illegal’ user, making this statute unconstitutionally vague.

The U.S. Attorney fired back stating that marijuana was not a medicine and had no accepted medical use, making Stacy an illegal drug user.

There were no oral arguments heard about the underage or vindictive prosecution charges as both attorneys agreed to submit those arguments in writing. Judge Moskowitz declined to rule on the motions that day and said he would issue a written decision within the week.

The next court date in Stacy’s case is set for October 20th at 10:30am in Courtroom 15, where motions in limine will be heard. The trial set to start on November 1, 2010

Aside from not taking a deal and advocating for HR 3939, Stacy has successfully organized and put on a medical marijuana convention in San Diego, with the second one dubbed Rx Fest II (7), planned for October 24 from 4:20pm – 9:30pm at the Maritime Museum on board the Berkeley Ferry Boat. That day hundreds of medical marijuana patients and concerned citizens will come together to help raise money for James Stacy as he goes through the Federal trial.

References:

  1. http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/pdf/english/19-title-summ-analysis.pdf
  2. http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192
  3. http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/without_truth_in_trials_medical_marijuana_defendants_have_no_hope_of_justice
  4. http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/U.S._v_OCBC.pdf
  5. http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/Stacy_Ruling.pdf
  6. http://www.safeaccessnow.org/section.php?id=354
  7. Rx Fest II - For more information or to reserve an exhibitor space please call 760-758-8500 or email movementinaction@gmail.com

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