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Legal Medical Marijuana Distributor Convicted of... Marijuana Distribution?!? [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #651)
Drug War Issues

The second time was the charm for anti-medical marijuana San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Last year, she failed to convict San Diego medical marijuana dispensary operator Jovan Jackson on distribution charges. But on Tuesday, after Dumanis convinced the trial judge to not allow Jackson to mention medical marijuana in his defense, a state court jury found him guilty of three counts of marijuana possession and distribution.

Jovan Jackson
Jackson's attorney announced Wednesday that he will appeal the decision. It is about time for a state appellate court to clear up some of the confusion around the state's medical marijuana Compassionate Use Act, said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML.

"The verdict doesn't surprise me since they rigged the trial," said Gieringer. "It will be appealed, and it's probably a good appellate case. I think it's time for an appellate court decision on all this, or a new law to clarify the legality of marijuana distribution. Until we change the law, we have to rely on the courts."

"By refusing him a defense, the district attorney and the court have railroaded Jackson and ensured his conviction," said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) chief counsel Joe Elford, who submitted an amicus brief in support of Jackson prior to his trial. "Jackson was denied a fair trial," Elford continued. "His conviction and the basis on which the court relied in refusing him a defense -- that sales are illegal under state law -- should absolutely be appealed."

Jackson was the operator of the Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, a San Diego medical marijuana dispensary. He was arrested in 2008 in one of Dumanis' anti-medical marijuana raids, but was acquitted last December. He was arrested again during a series of raids in September 2009, and this time, Dumanis was able to convince Judge Howard Shore to not allow Jackson to mention medical marijuana in his defense.

"After the embarrassment of losing the first trial against Jovan Jackson, District Attorney Dumanis was desperate for a conviction," said Eugene Davidovich, head of the San Diego ASA chapter, and another dispensary operator whom Dumanis prosecuted but failed to convict. "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."

"We believe the basis on which the judge refused to allow the medical marijuana defense is flawed," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "It had to do with an interpretation of the medical marijuana program act that is based on the collective and cooperative cultivation statute only allowing distribution, not sales. If anyone had half a brain, they would see that it exempts collectives and co-ops from prosecution for a variety of charges, including sales. That was the basis of our amicus brief filed before the trial, but apparently never considered by Judge Shore."

"The DA down there is on a crusade to somehow convict people of medical marijuana," said Gieringer. "She's hoping she can score a victory in court on this. The law is certainly vague, and that has given her lots of opportunities, but until now, she had struck out on her jury trials, although she did get a bunch of defendants to plead guilty on minor charges."

"To be fair, as aggressive and mean-spirited as Dumanis has been, she is part of a culture in San Diego that has a sordid history of hostility around these issues," said Hermes.

The pattern of hostility can be seen in the county Board of Supervisors' failed 2006 lawsuit to avoid having to implement the state medical marijuana ID card program, and in continued aggressive action against dispensaries in the area. In 2007 and 2008, during the Bush administration, there were more than 50 raids against dispensaries. Most recently, Dumanis worked with the Obama administration to conduct 20 raids on dispensaries in San Diego on September 9, 2009, which resulted in the failed prosecution of Davidovich and the successful second prosecution of Jackson.

But as hostile as San Diego has been to medical marijuana, things are changing. Both the San Diego City Council and the county Board of Supervisors are now developing medical marijuana distribution ordinances that would regulate the very activity for which Jackson was convicted. In June, a San Diego grand jury issued recommendations calling on local governments to implement the state medical marijuana law. In particular, the grand jury called for the city and county to develop a "program for the licensing, regulation and periodic inspection of authorized collectives and cooperatives distributing medical marijuana."

The second time may have been the charm for Dumanis in the Jovan Jackson case, but if local governments act to implement the state's medical marijuana law, it may well be the last hurrah for her anti-medical marijuana crusade.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Joth (not verified)

Is that legal?

Are the courts really allowed to tell you what you can say, and can't say?

Thats totally against the freedom of speech!

Can someone tell me how this is possible please.

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 10:20pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by Joth (not verified)

That seems to be what they say is our way of "justice"  I think, it has been established that this happens, in federal courts. But, the fact that this happened in a state that has legal medical cannabis, is problematic for that behavior. If it is state law, then how can she prosecute him ?   Possibly, that is where the appeal is going to go. But, if they would wait until after prop 19, all of this type of haggling will be moot!  He should have been allowed to tell the state court that he was following a state law and they were going to get medical cannabis reviewed!  Seems like the lawyer could be manipulating the law to her advantage.  Ethics?

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 11:13pm Permalink
berik (not verified)

In reply to by mlang52 (not verified)

Prop 19 will not help this man. It is not set up to be retroactive, so he is still going to appeal.

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 9:50pm Permalink
ezrydn (not verified)

In reply to by berik (not verified)

it's really better that he go the appeal route.  In doing so, the hope is that a positive appellate decision will end ths madness in our courts of not being able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even though it's not the truth the DA wants juries to hear.  On this point alone, Jackson should have some good, high-powered backup in his corner.  Courts have been getting away with this crap for way too long.

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 9:16pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by berik (not verified)

I meant, after the passage of Prop 19, this sort of haggling would be moot. I know it will not apply to this guy's problem!  But , at least it should stop this sort of crap, wasting the citizens' money!  And, maybe, just maybe, some judge will figure it out, with this case, and nullify the entire charade!  This guy should not be spending time federal prison, after following his state's laws.

Sun, 10/03/2010 - 12:32pm Permalink
Nedmorlef (not verified)

In reply to by Joth (not verified)

Many americans think that if, you are somehow illegally arrested that, you will walk in court and honestly tell how it really went down that, the court will see & understand. Punish the cop and let you go.


The court asks questions and you answer. Anything you say outside of what you are asked will be labeled "conjecture" or you will be threatened with jail for making the court your personal soapbox.

Anything the cop says is testifying to facts.

There's not all this justice that, people think our system is about.

It's a tightly controlled show for the people that , has worked because, the U.S. is full of people that, think they'll never be accused. If they are ,there will be truth come out about it.


That's why it's important for you to be involved. If all the under 40s voted in this country weed would be straight out legal but, "they" tell you that, you are "throwing your vote away" or "your vote doesn't count" and you buy it. Hook ,line & sinker.

Nothing personal my friend. It's a learning experience. I know many like you and sadly they are older folks that, should know better than us all. The older voting bloc really believes when the cops arrest you or shoot you that, you are genuinely guilty and got what you deserved.

Our prisons are full of innocent people that, were convicted on evidence or the lack of just like this man.

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 10:26pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

To believe that any prosecutor, especially Dumanis, has any ethics, at all, is being truly naive.  This article brings that point home:

The article only reports on federal prosecutors, but state and county prosecutors are just as bad.  All prosecutors are politicians, and their only concern is how well their job can propel them higher in the political world; so every prosecution is designed by the prosecutor to make the prosecutor look good, that a real human being's life is hanging in the balance matters not one whit.  Prosecutors will do anything they can to get a conviction, even if it means cheating, lying, denying or withholding evidence of innocence, and twisting the facts in court until they no longer resemble anything close to the truth.

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 3:44am Permalink
law4all (not verified)

Apparently the prosecution believes they don't owe a duty of law to the person being prosecuted. It would be to their benefit to read the article at the innocence project about the USA Today investigation, dealing with Misconduct by Justice Departments. I am appalled that the judge approved such a thing! They need to be held accountable for their actions in cases as these, or we will be facing greater injustices down the road.

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 9:45pm Permalink
EAH (not verified)

The judges action in this case is not new. It is a legal judgement that judges in medical cases where sales are charged have been making for years. It happened to me too. It has to do with our culture. Most people for a long time have bought into the idea that sales are immoral and thus criminal for good reason. This includes judges. CA Superior court judges have refused to accept or acknowledge the idea that sales were a logical aspect of medical distribution. All these people with inherent suspicion and distrust of medical cannabis took the position that because nowhere does the word sales appear in 215 or 420 that sales were not made to be legal even for medical use. Their view is that CA H&S code is the law and the exceptions to it are what is explicitly spelled out in 215 and 420. There is no EXPLICIT wording in 215 or 420 that say in plain english that sales are allowed for medical purposes. Many feel it is fully implied that they are, and that is a reasonable, logical opinion to have, but the problem has been that judges have chosen not to see it that way.

So judges ruling on defense motions have refused to allow a medically based defense to a sales charge. In Federal court it is because there is no legality to cannabis period. In CA court it is sales charges that judges have ruled as not having any defense based on what they read the current laws and statutes to be. It was a huge mistake not to get the verb sell into 215 or 420. That was something that was seen as unacceptable to too many people when 215 was written and also even when 420 was written. They thought the euphemism "compensation" for caregivers would work, but it didn't. So as far as Judges, DAs and LEOs go, they see no legal wording that tells them in clear unambiguous language that selling for medical use is made a legal exception to the relevant H&S codes on the books.

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 6:41pm Permalink
newageblues (not verified)

I'm not angry at all Christians by any means, I really like sincere, loving Christians, and I realize many Christians do support cannabis users. But overall Christians still support forcing people to use alcohol instead of cannabis if they want to get a substance high. And when I think of what Jesus felt about hypocrisy (talk about hate!), and about humility, and I see what alcohol using, cannabis hating loudly proclaimed 'Christians' have done to cannabis users and to the country and the world, including by dragging MMJ and industrial hemp into it, and how they stonewall a full and honest debate on the subject, I do get mighty upset with them. I think  some of them will be pretty angry with themselves when they realize how much needless suffering their bias against cannabis has caused.

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 9:05pm Permalink

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