Thursday, January 27, 2011

Advocates Keep Jackson out of Jail

By: Eugene Davidovich

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford and defense attorney Lance Rogers successfully argued motion to keep Jackson out of jail pending appeal.

SAN DIEGO – On Thursday San Diego District Attorney (DA) Dumanis and her fierce fight against medical marijuana saw a significant setback. San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore granted Jackson’s motion to stay out of jail pending appeal.

Jovan Jackson a medical marijuana patient, Navy Veteran, and former operator of Answerdam a medical marijuana collective in San Diego, was convicted on September 28th, 2010 after he was tried for the second time in less than a year on the same charges of marijuana possession and sale.

He was convicted in his second trial as a result of being denied the medical marijuana defense by Judge Shore, who claimed that although all were legal patients, since all 1600 members of the collective did not express that their “purpose” was to cultivate, that Jackson did not qualify for the medical marijuana collective defense.

On Wednesday, December 15th 2010 Jackson was sentenced to 180 days in jail and a fine. He was scheduled to report to jail on February 1, 2011. Also that day, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group joined the case. Joe Elford ASA’s Chief Legal Counsel was in court officially joining, filing motions, as well as helping Lance Rogers, Jovan’s defense attorney from both trials.

On Thursday, January 27 2011 ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford was back in San Diego in front of Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore along with Lance Rogers arguing to keep Jovan out of Jail while ASA appeals his case.

Judge Shore heard arguments from Deputy DA Chris Linbergh who claimed that Jovan was a flight risk and should be remanded into custody. Joe Elford fired back with proof that Jackson had made every court date, that the community was behind him, as well as presented compelling case law to support keeping Jackson out on bail while his appeal was being heard.

Judge Shore agreed with the defense and explained that it would not be fair if Jackson was remanded into custody, forced to serve his time, and then later find out that he was victorious on appeal. Judge Shore further explained that this was not a typical drug case, that Jackson was not a threat, that there was no violence or weapons involved, and that this was a case where the defendant appeared to have made every attempt to follow state law.

When the DA realized that there was a chance that Jackson would not see any jail time and that Dumanis’ plan was failing, he begged the court for a bail to be set at 180 thousand dollars. Judge Shore found that to be overly excessive and reduced the bail to 50 thousand.

Judge Shore also agreed with the defense that Jackson was clearly not a flight risk and even took the time to point out that advocates for medical marijuana and other members of the community have been there for Jackson throughout the entire trial, which showed strong community ties and support.

Judge Shore moved the official date Jackson has to report to jail from February 1 to the 15, giving Jackson an extra two weeks to come up with funds necessary to stay out on bail. After the hearing advocates present in the courtroom vowed to raise the $4,500 necessary to keep Jackson out of Jail.

Within the next few months the appellate courts will decide whether to hear Jackson’s case and if the decision comes out that Jackson should have been allowed a defense during trial, his case would likely return to the superior court to be retried in front of a Jury with a medical marijuana defense as it should have been in the first place.

After this hearing the community is certain that court support works, and that the efforts of just a few can significantly impact the decisions Judges make in court and actually keep patients out of jail.

If you would like to help with the fundraising efforts to keep Jackson out of Jail contact

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

San Diego City Planning Commission to Vote on Dispensary Ordinance

By: Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access

Patients and Advocates concerned ordinance headed towards ban rather than reasonable regulation.

On January 20th the City of San Diego’s Planning Commission will be discussing and voting on a recommendation to the City Council to approve an ordinance limiting medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of San Diego to certain industrial and limited commercial zones.

Out of almost one hundred possible zoning categories in the city’s municipal code if the ordinance passes unchanged, the current limitations would allow dispensaries only in five specific zones within the city’s limits; IL-1-3, IS-1-1, CC-2-1, CC-2-2, and CC-2-3.

Facilities lucky enough to find friendly landlords in those five zones, would be faced with another challenge; finding friendly landlords whose properties are located at least 1,000 feet away from schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities, youth facilities, churches, parks, as well as other dispensaries.

According to the proposed ordinance all dispensaries currently open in the city would be required to shut down, as the ordinance considers everyone open prior to its passage, out of compliance by default. Those who want to continue to provide safe access to patients in their current locations would have to apply for a process 4 conditional use permit (CUP). Process 4 is one of the most restrictive and expensive licensing processes the city can force an organization to go through. Under a process four, each application would have to be heard by the planning commission as well as the city council on appeal.

Under Process 4, not only would safe access be unduly restricted for patients in the city, but every dispensary application would turn into a political battle that would require city council’s vote on each application. While the political wrangling goes on in City Hall, those patients who need this medicine most would have to go without.

Even on the surface this proposal does not appear to be a compromise, nor is it a regulation addressing patients’ needs. The proposed ordinance is nothing but a ban attempting to be passed off as a regulation.

There is still a chance to turn this around. The roadmap to a reasonable compromise is already spelled out in the report presented by city staff to the planning commission. Aside from the overly restrictive ordinance, the report includes numerous alternatives and recommendations from The Medical Marijuana Task Force, the Code Monitoring Team, as well as the Community Planners Committee all of whom prior to making their recommendations heard testimony from hundreds of patients and community members on the issue.

The San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force (MMTF) recommended a process 2 CUP for dispensaries with less than 100 members and a process 3 CUP for those with more than 100. The sensitivity buffer of 1,000 feet in the MMTF’s recommendations only applied to schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities and youth facilities, not churches and parks. Also, the separation requirement from other dispensaries recommended by the MMTF was only 500 feet.

The Code Monitoring Team (CMT) also recommended a much more reasonable approach. They suggested that distances from sensitive uses be down to 300 feet, making the restrictions the same as those currently in place for off-site sales of alcohol.

The CMT also recommended that dispensaries be allowed in all commercial zones including those with residential uses, as well as industrial zones that allow retail uses such as pharmacies. With regards to the permitting process, the CMT recommended a process 3.

The Community Planners Committee (CPC) recommendations also included a less restrictive approach. Majority of members of the CPC were extremely concerned that the proposed ordinance bans access in their communities. They actually demanded that every Community Planning Group (CPG) be allowed to grant variances allowing locations in their communities if the overly restrictive ordinance ends up banning or making their neighborhoods “too sensitive” for medical marijuana.

The CPC also recommended that collectives currently open be allowed to continue operating for at least one year following the passage of the ordinance while they are coming into compliance with the new requirements.

The consensus of the San Diego Community is clear. Citizens want safe access to medical marijuana for patients in their communities. They do not want a ban nor do they want to see only a handful of facilities allowed to be open through an overly restrictive and expensive process.

The regulation adopted should allow patients to sort out the number of locations allowed to exist in the city through their patronage or lack thereof, rather than through a zoning cap or de facto ban.

San Diegans see that an ordinance so restrictive that it eradicates reasonable access in our communities would not only create many lawsuits and legal costs for the already cash strapped city, but it would also go directly against the will of California voters and the needs of the many sick and dying patients who rely on this medicine every day.

At the January 20th planning commission meeting, patients, advocates, and concerned citizens will speak out in hopes of convincing the commissioners to listen to the recommendations of the community, the MMTF, the CMT, and the CPC, to help regulate rather than ban safe access in the City of San Diego.

Further Information:
Planning commission’s Agenda for the January 20th Meeting:

Staff Report for the January 20th meeting:

San Diego ASA News Brief about the Planning Commission Meeting:

Planning Commission Meeting Information:
MMJ Ordinance is Agenda Item 10 - January 20th 9am
12th Floor of City Hall – 202 C St. San Diego CA

Friday, January 14, 2011

Local Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group Training Public Defenders

San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access conducts certified continuing legal education training for the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office.

SAN DIEGO - Successfully defending medical marijuana patients in court was the focus of Thursday’s certified continuing legal education (MCLE) training for the San Diego County Public Defenders.

About sixty public defenders, court-appointed attorneys, and private attorneys were on hand at the main San Diego training facility with over sixty others joining through an internet broadcast courtesy of the Public Defender’s Office.

“This was our most well attended training”, said Gary Gibson, Training Coordinator for the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office and local Law Professor.

Proposition 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, established the legal right of patients to use, possess and grow marijuana with a doctor’s authorization in California. In January 2004, SB 420, a bill passed by the California legislature and signed by the governor, gave patients, collectives, and cooperative dispensaries additional rights and directing counties to afford better protection to patients and caregivers.

Since SB 420 in 2004 the appellate courts have issued many decisions directly affecting medical marijuana patients and caregivers in California including County of Butte v. Superior Court, a landmark appellate court ruling that protects the right of medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers to collectively cultivate.

“No California medical marijuana patient or caregiver should ever have to go to jail or accept a plea bargain again,” said Steph Sherer, ASA executive director. “Once defense attorneys understand the changes in the law and the defenses available to them, they’ll be able to fight every prosecution to acquittal.”

The training sessions will count for continuing legal education credit (MCLE) for the participating attorneys and were provided to the Public Defenders Office at no cost. The training was taught by two trial lawyers, Bahar Ansari San Diego ASA board member and Lance Rogers, both of whom successfully defended medical marijuana patients at trial in San Diego and are experts in the field.

“This training helped arm the Public Defenders in San Diego who typically represent the most vulnerable in our community, those who cannot afford private counsel, with the knowledge and resources to successfully defend legitimate patients at trial”, said Eugene Davidovich San Diego Area Liaison for Americans for Safe Access who introduced the two instructors at today’s training. “It is our hope that programs like this one will help reduce the amount of cases where patients accept plea deals when they are in fact compliant with State law”.

Americans for Safe Access is the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

Further Information:

Watch the News Brief about the training:
San Diego ASA:

Get Involved, get active, make a difference!
Join ASA -

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stacy Sentenced in Federal Court; Two Years Probation for Operating Medical Marijuana Dispensary

By: Eugene Davidovich

San Diego -- Today at the San Diego Federal Courthouse medical marijuana patients saw a tremendous victory in court. In front of a courtroom filled to the brim with supporters wearing green solidarity ribbons, James Stacy was just sentenced to 2 years probation for operating a medical marijuana dispensary in Vista Ca.

Mr. Stacy’s dispensary Movement in Action was raided in September of 2009 as part of San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis’ Operation Green Rx raids on over a dozen dispensaries in San Diego.

Just two months ago Stacy was facing a mandatory minimum of 5 years in Federal Prison with the possibility of life. Shortly before his trial was supposed to begin in November of last year, the US Attorney’s office made an offer which included three years probation and no jail time, if Stacy pled guilty to one count of manufacturing marijuana (cultivation).

After careful consideration Stacy signed the deal.

Today Judge Moskowitz heard from the probation department, which recommended that Stacy be incarcerated for thirteen months as well as go to drug rehab.
Both the Judge and US Attorney disagreed with the report and stated multiple times how Mr. Stacy was in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law, and that no jail time was warranted.

Judge Moskowitz took extra time to modify the terms of Stacy’s probation to make them less restrictive and even reduced the original 3 year probation recommendation to 2 years.

The US Attorney’s office agreed and Mr. Stacy walked out of that courtroom today not in custody and to a hallway filled with his supporters and friends.

Watch this San Diego ASA News Brief for James Stacy’s reaction after his sentencing as well as for the complete story:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sentencing for Vista pot shop owner set for Friday

By TERI FIGUEROA - North County Times

A Vista man who pleaded guilty last fall to federal charges related to his medical marijuana dispensary is set to be sentenced on Friday, with prosecutors agreeing to recommend probation instead of jail time, according to court documents.

Even with the recommendation of probation, the fate of James Stacy, 46, lies in the hands of U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz during a sentencing hearing in the judge's San Diego federal courtroom.

Stacy had faced nine federal drug charges arising from a raid of his now-shuttered Vista dispensary, Movement in Action. In October, he pleaded guilty to a single charge: manufacturing marijuana.

Stacy's medical marijuana shop on South Santa Fe Avenue was one of 14 San Diego County shops raided by local and federal authorities Sept. 9, 2009. Read More...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Protest Medical Marijuana Law Enforcement Raids in San Luis Obispo County January 11

Regarding the recent law enforcement raids of several area medicinal marijuana delivery services, a public protest rally, including ASA participation, will take place on TUESDAY, JANUARY 11th, starting at 7:30 am in front of the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Monterey Street at Santa Rosa Street (across from the Fremont Theater).

Please help get the word out to everyone you know who shares our disapproval of the heavy-handed actions of law enforcement against providers who are fully compliant with California's medical marijuana program. Many patients have also been victimized unfairly; and our SLOASA Chapter urges everyone who supports patients' rights to speak out, write letters to the media and to your local government officials here in SLO County decrying the continued expenditure of our taxpayer dollars on this war on medical marijuana.

We hope to see you at the rally! Make and bring signs! Bring a friend or relative! Please remember, however, that this rally is specifically directed at the medical marijuana issue, and it will not be addressing recreational use of marijuana.

Thanks for your support.

1/20 San Diego City Planning Commission Meeting

To see all the San Diego ASA News Briefs visit: