|Graphic: Movement In Action|
A North San Diego County medical marijuana provider, James Stacy, will be the first such case to go to trial after the Justice Department issued its new enforcement policy in October 2009, a month after the raid.
The trial date will be scheduled on Wednesday for Stacy, whose Vista dispensary was raided on September 9, 2009. Stacy will argue at the hearing that he’s entitled to admit evidence of state law compliance, something which has been routinely denied to defendants in federal marijuana cases. Unlike the state laws in California and 13 other states, federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I “narcotic,” with no medical value.
Stacy’s dispensary, Movement In Action, was raided along with more than a dozen other San Diego County dispensaries as part of local-federal joint enforcement actions known as “Operation Endless Summer” which resulted in more than 30 arrests.
|Photo: Operation Green Rx|
|Movement In Action dispensary owner James Stacy|
Only Stacy and one other medical marijuana dispensary operator, Joseph Nunes, were charged federally as a result of the raids. Nunes has since pleaded guilty and was recently sentenced to a year in prison.
“With a new enforcement policy on medical marijuana, the federal government should not be trying this case at all,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy organization.
“At the very least, Mr. Stacy’s case should be tried in state court where he’s guaranteed a defense against his charges,” Elford said.
Because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on medical marijuana, defendants are prevented from entering evidence of medical use or state law compliance in federal court.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before Congress last week, reaffirming that the Obama Administration is not interested in using the Justice Department’s “limited resources” to prosecute people who are in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws.
Stacy argues that he was in full compliance with California law. Nevertheless, he was federally charged with cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy to cultivate and sell marijuana, and possession of a firearm, which together could result in more than 20 years in prison.
The federal government has so far failed to show any evidence of state law violations and has blocked repeated attempts by Stacy’s lawyer, Kasha Kastillo, to try the case in state court.
Another San Diego dispensary operator. Jovan Jackson, was arrested as a result of the raids in September and prosecuted by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in state court. Jackson was acquitted by a jury after a November 2009 trial on similar charges.
More recently, the San Diego Board of Supervisors has taken note of the county’s failure to gain convictions and has decided to regulate medical marijuana distribution in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The San Diego City Council is similarly debating a dispensary ordinance.
“The move to regulate local medical marijuana distribution is certainly a positive step for San Diego,” Elford said. “However, it begs the question of why Mr. Stacy still being prosecuted in federal court.”
Because of the government’s continued efforts to prosecute medical marijuana patients despite a new Justice Department enforcement policy, advocates are urging members of Congress to pass HR 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants to use a medical or state law defense in federal court.
The Truth in Trials Act currently has more than 30 Congressional cosponsors.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statements before Congress [Video]
Truth In Trials Act [PDF]