A San Francisco jury acquitted a man who gave a pinch of pot to an undercover cop, saying there was no proof that he actually sold it to the officer.
Stetson Qualls Jones, 24, was arrested on Feb. 5 on suspicion of selling marijuana while smoking pot in San Francisco's Hippy Hill. But on Wednesday, a jury decided he was not guilty, sparing him the three years he was facing behind bars.
At the time of his arrest, Qualls Jones was socializing and smoking marijuana with friends when he saw a man he thought he knew and waved him over.
Upon closer inspection, Qualls Jones realized the man was a stranger, but welcomed him to their fun anyhow. When Qualls Jones invited him to smoke with the group, the man turned down the generous offer, asking instead if he could buy some marijuana.
Qualls Jones testified that he told the man he did not sell marijuana. The man appeared "agitated and stressed out" by the news so Qualls Jones reached into his personal stash, pinched off a small amount of marijuana, and handed it to the man, not knowing that his new friend was working for the cops.
Qualls Jones, who lives a communal lifestyle and frowns upon capitalism, claims he refused to take the $20 bill the guy offered him for the pot, believing that marijuana should be freely shared, not bought and sold, for medicinal purposes.
At that point, six cops swarmed Qualls Jones arresting him as part of a sting operation. Police found a bag of less than 1 ounce of marijuana in his jacket pocket, and later testified that they found the $20 under a blanket where Qualls Jones was sitting.
During the trial, Qualls Jones' attorney, Ariel Boyce-Smith, questioned two police officers who admitted they were receiving overtime pay in exchange for the buy-bust operation.
Throughout the trial, Boyce-Smith repeated a rhyme that captured the essence of the case: "He didn't accept a dime, they made up this crime, while they were getting paid overtime."
Qualls Jones was found guilty of possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, an infraction that cost him $25.
It's worth noting that in 2006, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance making marijuana offenses the police department's lowest priority. Of course, that low priority clause doesn't apply to the sale of marijuana.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi pointed out that Qualls Jones never posed a risk to public safety. "A tremendous amount of city resources were wasted in a manufactured case against a man who was minding his own business," Adachi said. "San Franciscans have been very clear about marijuana enforcement and I am not surprised a jury rejected this case."