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Medical Marijuana Advocates Appeal Conviction of San Diego Dispensary Operator

Sam Sabzehzar 2011-11-22 0 comments

Court to decide on legality of “sales” & whether dispensary operators are entitled to a defense

By Kris Hermes  |  Published by Americans for Safe Access

Jovan Jackson (far right) speaking with reporters after Bonnie Dumanis re-charged him, at great costs to tax-payers and to victims of violent crimes who do not have the full attention by their city's law enforcement and judicial system as cases like Jovan's ties up valuable and limited resources.

Medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) today appealed the September 2010 conviction of San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson in a case that has received widespread attention.

The case against Jackson has become a symbol of the effort by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and other prosecutors across the state to criminalize storefront collectives.

Due to state jurisprudence, California Attorney General Kamala Harris will now defend Jackson’s appeal rather than Dumanis, who originally tried him.

The ASA appeal not only contests Jackson’s conviction and his denial of a defense, but it also challenges the prosecution’s assertion that “sales” of medical marijuana are illegal under state law.

“Jackson and other medical marijuana providers deserve a defense under the state’s medical marijuana laws and these are issues for a jury to decide,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who authored the appeal brief filed today. “The denial of Jackson’s defense was unfairly used to convict a medical marijuana provider who was in full compliance with state law.”

At Jackson’s trial, San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore referred to medical marijuana as “dope,” and called California’s medical marijuana laws “a scam.”

The Jackson case represents one of the first medical marijuana-related criminal appeals for Harris, who was elected one year ago after a hard-fought campaign against Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Before taking office as Attorney General, Harris was the San Francisco District Attorney during the implementation and enforcement of her city’s dispensary licensing ordinance, one of the first in the nation.

Jackson operated his storefront collective for years without incident until he was raided by law enforcement in 2008. Jackson was tried for marijuana possession and sales in 2009, but was acquitted by a jury.

Dissatisfied with that result, District Attorney Dumanis tried Jackson again on the same charges stemming from a September 2009 raid by a multi-agency task force made up of local and federal law enforcement.

It was at his second trial that Jackson was denied a defense and ultimately convicted. Judge Shore gave Jackson 180 days in jail before his conviction was appealed.

Several District Attorneys have asserted that medical marijuana “sales” are illegal under state law, despite guidelines issued in 2008 by the California Attorney General and legal case law to the contrary.

This contention — that patients must take part in collective cultivation and “till the soil” — has been used to deny Jackson a defense, even though other lower courts, like those in Los Angeles and Butte Counties, take a differing view.

For example, in Williams v. Butte County, the Superior Court held that, “the legislature intended collective cultivation of medical marijuana would not require physical participation in the gardening process by all members of the collective, but rather would permit that some patients would be able to contribute financially, while others performed the labor and contributed the skills and ‘know-how.'”

Jackson is currently out on bail pending appeal, but he no longer operates his medical marijuana collective. The Attorney General has 30 days to reply to the appeal.