San Diego Hypocrisy & Medical Marijuana Distribution on Trial

November 25th, 2009
Posted by Kris Hermes

This story would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic.

The Answerdam Alternative Care Collective (AACC) was a medical marijuana dispensary in San Diego. It was doing the best it could to comply with the law: it was collectively run, it did not make a profit, it verified its member patients, and it paid sales tax to the State Board of Equalization. So, what was the problem? San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the lack of a local ordinance with which to regulate dispensaries like AACC.

In September, Dumanis oversaw raids on more than a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego simply because they “appear[ed] to be run by drug dealers.” Despite her lack of evidence, Dumanis arrested 31 people, one of which was Jovan Jackson of AACC. Dumanis chose to prosecute Jackson for possession and sale of medical marijuana, claiming that he sold it for profit. Unfortunately for Dumanis, Jackson’s case was a poor choice and would turn out to be an embarrassment to her office.

Unbeknownst to Dumanis at the time, Deputy District Attorney James Pitts was a member patient of AACC, and had purchased medical marijuana multiple times from the dispensary. If AACC was good enough for Pitts, why wasn’t it good enough for Dumanis? Well, we haven’t gotten to the bottom of that, but Pitts did testify in Jackson’s trial today. He confirmed that he was a patient and had signed a membership agreement, but that was about all. He’s probably sufficiently embarrassed, and “I can’t recall” should be good enough at this point. Hopefully, the hypocrisy of the District Attorney’s office won’t be lost on the jury.

It would be one thing if the prosecutor in Jackson’s case provided sufficient evidence of profiteering, but the case is more about the District Attorney’s misperception that medical marijuana “sales” are illegal under state law. Even if the state legislature, the courts, and the California Attorney General hadn’t recognized the legality of sales, Dumanis has yet to base her legal theory on any established law. Perhaps if the prosecutor, the police, and others ill-informed say it enough (“sales are illegal”), maybe it’ll come true. Hopefully not.

Closing arguments in Jackson’s trial are scheduled for Monday. The tragedy is that Jackson shouldn’t be on trial and his life has been needlessly disrupted as a result. Jackson has also endured mistreatment, including being denied the right to represent himself at trial. Hopefully, the jury will see through the “Dumanis charade” to the truth, which is that medical marijuana sales are legal and that Jackson was doing his best to comply with state law in the absence of any local law in San Diego. In order to avoid further tragedies like this, the City Council should promptly adopt an ordinance regulating dispensaries.

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