Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Medical Marijuana Patient Advocates Fight for New Trial in San Diego Dispensary Case

For Immediate Release: December 7th, 2010

Medical Marijuana Patient Advocates Fight for New Trial in San Diego Dispensary Case

District attorney & court use double jeopardy, deny defense to unfairly convict dispensary operator

San Diego, CA -- Medical marijuana patient advocates filed a motion for a new trial today in the case of Jovan Jackson, who was convicted on September 28th after he was tried for the second time in less than a year on the same charges of marijuana possession and sales. After District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis failed to convict Jackson the first time, she was able to block his use of a medical marijuana defense at the second trial, virtually guaranteeing his conviction. Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, argues in its motion that double jeopardy and the denial of a defense was used to unfairly convict Jackson. The motion for a new trial will be heard at Jackson's sentencing hearing, currently scheduled for December 15th at 9am before Judge Howard H. Shore.

"Embarrassed by her earlier loss and desperate for a conviction, District Attorney Dumanis manipulated the criminal justice system to unfairly try Jackson a second time," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel, and the attorney who filed Jackson's motion for a new trial. "To make matters worse, the court deprived Jackson of the defense that was used to gain an acquittal in his first trial, and a defense to which he's entitled." In December of 2009, Jackson was acquitted by a jury of marijuana possession and sales charges stemming from a 2008 arrest. By denying Jackson a medical marijuana collective defense at his second trial, the court virtually assured his conviction.

For years Jackson had operated his San Diego medical marijuana dispensary, Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, before being raided in September 2009 by a multi-agency task force dubbed "Operation Green Rx." Although more than 60 people were arrested in several raids coordinated by Dumanis in collaboration with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Jackson was one of only two defendants Dumanis chose to prosecute in state court. The case against the other defendant, Eugene Davidovich, resulted in a jury acquittal of similar charges earlier this year.

Much of the opposition to local distribution from Dumanis and other detractors like Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who recently lost his bid for Attorney General, is based on an interpretation which holds that patients cannot use money to obtain their medical marijuana, or that "sales" are somehow illegal under state law. This interpretation that patients must take part in the cultivation, must "till the soil," is strenuously held by a few rogue officials despite guidelines issued in 2008 by the California Attorney General's office and legal case law to the contrary. In Jackson's case, the court held that the dispensary operator must cultivate the marijuana sold by the dispensary.

"Jackson should not have been denied a defense and should not be used as a scapegoat for the District Attorney's misguided position that medical marijuana sales are illegal," said Eugene Davidovich, who also heads the San Diego chapter of ASA. In an effort to keep medical marijuana out of Jackson's second trial, Judge Shore ordered people in the audience to remove articles of clothing that displayed an Americans for Safe Access logo, including tote bags carried into the courtroom.

Notably, the San Diego City Council has been working for more than a year on a local medical marijuana distribution law, which would regulate the same activity for which Jackson was convicted. A San Diego grand jury issued recommendations in June calling on city and county governments to implement the state's medical marijuana law. In particular, the grand jury urged development of a "program for the licensing, regulation and periodic inspection of authorized collectives and cooperatives distributing medical marijuana."

Further information:
Jackson's motion for a new trial filed by ASA: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Jackson_New_Trial_Motion.pdf
San Diego grand jury recommendations on medical marijuana: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/grandjury/reports/2009-2010/MedicalMarijuanaReport.pdf

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