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Chalk up a victory for lawful medical marijuana patients today in California. If you get busted running a collective, you should be able to raise a medical marijuana defense in court.
According to a release from Americans for Safe Access, the Fourth District Court of Appeal for California issued a unanimous published ruling today that reverses the conviction of San Diego dispensary operator, Jovan Jackson.
Jackson’s storefront collective was raided in 2008, and he was tried for marijuana possession and sales in 2009, but was acquitted. Cops raided him again that year, and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis tried him again on the same charges. At that second trial, San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore, who reportedly called medical marijuana “dope,” and Prop 215 “a scam,” denied Jackson a medical defense. Jackson was convicted and sentenced to 180 days in jail.
Today’s Appellate ruling reverses Jackson’s conviction and the lower court’s finding that Jackson was not entitled to a defense. Future medical marijuana-related defendants can use such a defense in future jury trials, Americans for Safe Access writes.
“This landmark decision not only recognizes the right of dispensaries to exist and provide medical marijuana to their patient members, it also grants a defense for those providers in state court,” stated Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, who argued for Jackson in court.
The Appeals Court decision also rejects the proverbial ‘make ‘em grow it’ logic of medical marijuana’s foes.
“By rejecting the Attorney General’s argument that patients who utilize dispensaries must collaborate, or ‘come together’ in ‘some way’ to cultivate the marijuana they purchase, the court is establishing a clear standard for dispensaries across the state,” Elford stated.
Jovan Jackson (left) in 2010. The court writes that, “the collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization. Thus, contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the large membership of Jackson’s collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense.”
The case against Jackson has been a highly watched symbol of the crackdown on medical marijuana by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and other prosecutors across the state. Such law enforcement groups seek to criminalize storefront medical marijuana collectives and ban the exchange of cash for the life-saving herb. Today’s ruling sets them back a bit, and could reverberate through Los Angeles.
Attorney General Kamala Harris – who defended medical marijuana as District Attorney of San Francisco – could try to appeal today’s ruling to the California Supreme Court. The case may also get sent back to the lower court for a new trial.
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