San Diego medical marijuana dispensary operator Jovan Jackson was convicted by a jury Tuesday on all three counts of possession and sales of cannabis with which he was charged. However, the conviction came after San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore refused to allow Jackson a medical marijuana defense at trial.
The trial began last week, with the jury taking less than 24 hours to reach a verdict. Jackson is likely to appeal the conviction and his inability to use a medical defense.
”By refusing him a defense, the District Attorney and the court has railroaded Jackson and ensured his conviction,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who submitted the amicus “friend of the court” brief in support of Jackson prior to his trial.
“Jackson was denied a fair trial,” Elford said. “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’s lawyer, Lance Rogers, confirmed he would appeal the verdict, focusing on a pretrial ruling by Judge Shore that Jackson could not use the state’s medical marijuana law as a defense at the trial.
Jackson, himself a medical marijuana patient, was the former operator of the San Diego medical marijuana dispensary Answerdam Alternative Care Collective. It was the second trial in less than a year for Jackson, who was arrested in a multiagency law enforcement raid in September 2009.
The charges stemmed from an investigation in July and September 2009 when police obtained marijuana from the collective during undercover buys.
Jackson was acquitted by a jury in December of marijuana possession and distribution charges stemming from a 2008 arrest.
This time, however, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, unable to convict Jackson on the facts, changed the rules by convincing Superior Court Judge Shore to deny Jackson a medical marijuana defense, virtually assuring a conviction.
Judge Shore concluded the medical marijuana law could not apply to Jackson because there was not enough evidence in the case to show that the main purpose of Answerdam was cultivation of pot. California’s medical marijuana law protects people from prosecution for cultivating cannabis, but not for distributing it, the judge said, reports Greg Moran of Sign On San Diego
During trial, Lindberg said an undercover officer was able to get a medical marijuana card after complaining to a doctor about back pain.
The officer went to Answerdam on July 16, 2009, and bought 1/4 ounce of marijuana for $130, the prosecutor said.
|Photo: San Diego ASA
|Eugene Davidovich, San Diego ASA: “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”
”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 chapter of ASA
“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,” Davidovich said.
During jury selection last week, in an effort to keep medical marijuana out of the courtroom, Judge Shore went so far as to order Jackson’s supporters to remove articles of clothing that displayed an Americans for Safe Access logo, including tote bags carried into the courtroom.
Rogers said jurors told him afterward they were reluctant to convict Jackson, but had no choice under the legal instructions they were told to follow. Jury nullification, anyone?
The California Attorney General’s Office issued guidelines in 2008 on how medical marijuana could be grown and distributed, but those guidelines are “interpreted differently in different counties,” Rogers said.
Jackson, a Navy veteran, read a statement outside of court saying he was disappointed at the verdict but vowed to press the appeal. He said he felt “pity and anger” at prosecutors for aggressively pursuing cases against him and other medical marijuana defendants.
“The fight is not over,” Jackson said outside court, reports CNS
. “This is just one chink in the armor.”
Jackson faces more than six years in prison at his sentencing on October 27, but Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg said he “wouldn’t expect” Jackson to do any time in prison.
Tuesday’s verdict came as both the San Diego City Council and the County Board of Supervisors are developing local medical marijuana distribution laws that would regulate the same activity for which Jackson was convicted.
A San Diego grand jury issued recommendations in June calling on city and county governments to implement the state’s 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.”
As part of law enforcement’s “Operation Green Rx,” more than 60 people were arrested in several raids. Yet, of only two cases the District Attorney chose to take to trial, both had resulted in acquittals. In addition to Jackson’s earlier acquittal, Davidovich was also acquitted of similar charges in March of this year.