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Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Landmark" Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ruling May Hurt Feds

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge Fought the pot and the pot won
  • Fought the pot and the pot won

A court ruling in San Diego could hinder the federal Justice Department's war on California's legal cannabis industry.

In what cannabis advocates called a "landmark ruling," an appeals court in San Diego tossed out a dispensary operator's drug-dealing conviction. Jovan Jackson was found guilty of marijuana sales only after a judge refused to allow him to use state medical marijuana law as a defense, a tact pursued by Attorney General Kamala Harris' office.

But Harris lost, and Jackson won, on Wednesday when the court ruled that he should have been allowed to use state law in his defense -- a novel concept -- and that he was legal despite his large collective where not every member participated in the growing of cannabis, according to Americans for Safe Access, which argued Jackson's case.

Jackson will be retried in San Diego, where District Attorney

Bonnie Dumais has been a helpful hand in the quest to quash all legal

weed. But he'll get a defense -- and one that might be useful for the

state's largest medical marijuana dispensary's looming battle in federal


Harborside Health Center, the largest cannabis collective in California -- and by extension, the nation, the world, the universe, etc. -- will appear in court on Nov. 1, when United States Attorney Melinda Haag will ask a judge to forfeit the dispensary's Oakland property to the government. Among Harborside's sins are its size, according to Haag. The fact that the dispensary has 108,000 patients means its somehow violating state law -- although Haag hasn't yet identified specific violations.

The Jackson case is relevant because it lays to rest a contention made by law enforcement: That in order to be a legal, bona-fide nonprofit collective, a dispensary must have each and every one of its members participate in the cultivation of cannabis. Such a requirement would lead to the ludicrous scene of wheelchair-users and wasting AIDS and cancer patients sticking shovels in soil or trimming fresh-cut bud. The court dispensed with that argument and ruled that collective members need not participate in growing.

The jury at Jackson's second trial may find that his collective, Answerdam, is not a nonprofit, but the collective's size will be irrelevant, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"That means a dispensary can sell marijuana to hundreds or thousands of patients without violating state law," the newspaper's Bob Egelko reported.

This case was noteworthy for Jackson's two trials -- he was acquitted in 2008 but convicted in 2009, on the same charges -- and for his outwardly hostile judge. Judge Howard Shore reportedly referred to medical cannabis as "dope" during the trial, called the state's medical marijuana laws "a sham," and sentenced Jackson to 180 days in jail.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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