Dumanis’ Raids on Dispensaries One Year Later – Still Through the ‘Barrel of a Gun’

By: Eugene Davidovich

SAN DIEGO – On September 9, 2009 the San Diego Cross Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force (NTF) launched an all day assault on medical marijuana in the county. Swat style raids on over fourteen medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives were conducted and over 30 medical marijuana patients were arrested that day alone.

The combined state/federal action was part of Operation Green Rx, a continuous effort by District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis to eradicate all dispensaries from San Diego. This specific operation has included three rounds of raids on dispensaries in less than two years; August of 2008, February of 2009, and September of 2009. The last round most commonly referred to as the “9/9/9” raids has raised the most questions about how far Dumanis will go to reach a conviction and subvert state law.

Dumanis justifies these actions and her continued waste of resources by claiming that all dispensaries are illegal because not all the members are actually participating in growing the plant ‘collectively or cooperatively’. According to Dumanis, only a group farm/community garden type of setup is a legal way to distribute medicine, where disabled patients from convalescent homes and hospitals have to roll up their sleeves and plow the fields, in order to continue their treatment.

The raids and her skewed interpretation of the law drew outrage from concerned citizens from around the state. Patient rights organizations quickly condemned the action and advocates from around the nation protested that medical regulations should not be at the barrel of a gun and that the raids hurt patients who depend on medical marijuana.

“Very little has been achieved by the local-federal operation to shut down dispensaries and hinder safe access in the San Diego area,” said Kris Hermes Director of Media Relations with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group. “DA Dumanis has failed to achieve convictions stemming from these raids and, given the weakness of her claims, any further investigations should be better conducted, and certainly no raids, arrests and prosecutions should occur unless Dumanis is certain there is evidence of state law violations. So far, she has been unable to provide sufficient evidence of state law violations.”

A year later, the only two cases that went to trial out of all the Operation Green Rx arrests in state court resulted in acquittals; Jovan Jackson won his case related to the August 2008 raid and the author of this article was acquitted of all the charges related to a raid in February of 2009. In both cases, jurors complained that the DA’s interpretation of the law was not correct, that the defendants were not guilty, and that the cases should not have been brought to trial.

After the two high profile losses, the DA instead of reconsidering her approach, decided to ramp-up her efforts. It appears she has now allotted more funds for investigations, has refused to work with the San Diego City Council on a sensible regulation, and is proceeding with prosecuting Jackson again.

Of the 30 plus people arrested on 9/9/9 and over fourteen facilities raided, only two individuals have since been charged in State Court; Mr. Dawson and Mr. Jackson, both African-American and both members of the Answerdam collective.

Mr. Dawson after spending more than 80 consecutive days locked up was pressured into accepting a plea deal to one count of sales.

Mr. Jackson is facing a second trial for charges related to the 9/9/9 raid even though that day he was in custody in connection with the first raid on August of 2008.

Regardless of the fact that Jackson was already resolving the issue of whether Answerdam was a legal collective in court, the DA still decided to charge him for the September 9th raid, and since his acquittal of the charges related to the August 2008 raid, has not dropped the case, rather focused her efforts on preventing Jackson from presenting a medical marijuana defense.

After suffering two losses, Dumanis realized that the law is clearly on the defendants side and the only way she could possibly win a case of this nature, is if she somehow succeeds in denying Jackson a defense in state court. Where Jackson, would be prevented from presenting to the jury the entire truth including the fact that he was a medical marijuana patient and that Answerdam was a collective that only allowed qualified patients to become members.

To ensure that a denial of a defense would be possible in Jackson’s case, Dumanis teamed up with one of the staunchest opponents of medical marijuana in the San Diego Superior Courthouse, former 16 year veteran prosecutor, Judge Shore whose decisions on this issue have previously been overturned in the People v Konow case, a landmark medical marijuana ruling in which Judge Shore was told by the appellate courts that he overstepped his authority.

Instead of recusing himself from this case in light of the clear conflict and personal bias, Judge Shore decided to go against the California Attorney General interpretation of the law, as well as the rulings of many other Judges across the state including two in the same courthouse.

CBS8 News Coverage of Jovan Jackson being denied his defense:

“The raids and subsequent prosecutions clearly prove the District Attorney is on a personal and biased crusade against the states medical marijuana laws. Dumanis’ form of justice is now as clear as day. Out of 30 plus individuals arrested, two were ‘black males’ and only the ‘back males’ were prosecuted in her court,” said Marcus Boyd of San Diego Americans for Safe Access. “The healing process for patients is complicated with the constant anxiety and fear of prosecution while working collectively to obtain and provide safe access to medical marijuana. Moreover, the continuing fear of raids is still preventing safe access to patients in convalescent care facilities and hospitals who are the very patients Prop 215 was intended to help. Raids have never been the answer. The answer has always been simply to work with the counties and City Councils’ in providing reasonable regulations for safe access, as required by law and supported by the most recent San Diego County Grand Jury report.”

“Whenever patients are threatened or intimidated such as this, there is harm perpetrated on the patient community. Furthermore, if access is hindered or cut off as it has been in years past in San Diego, then patients are directly impacted by having to find other sources of medication, some of them illicit, or simply go without the treatment their entitled to. DA Dumanis should abandon her campaign against the implementation of medical marijuana laws in San Diego. Instead, Dumanis should assist the San Diego City Council and County Board of Supervisors in crafting regulations that will both serve patients and protect all members of the community”, added Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access.

Concerned citizens from across the county are calling on Dumanis for an immediate cease and desist to her waste of our precious resources through these vindictive prosecutions and to end the abuse of legitimate medical marijuana patients in San Diego County.

Jackson is due back in court on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 in Courtroom 15, at 9am. That day Judge Shore intends to rule on the details of how he and the Deputy DA Chris Linbergh intend on making sure the defense makes no mention of medical marijuana during trial, as well as begin the jury selection process.

Further Information:
ASA Press Release about Denial of Medical Marijuana Defense:
http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=6086

Amicus brief filed today by ASA in support of Jovan Jackson:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Amicus_Jackson_Trial.pdf

Interview with the Jurors after Mr. Jackson’s first trial:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO-je9vvn-o

San Diego Americans for Safe Access
www.safeaccesssd.com

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