In a decision that will have ramifications for medical marijuana patients throughout California, the state’s supreme court has denied a review of a landmark appellate case, thereby affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries.
The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access brings us the details:
San Diego, CA – The California Supreme Court denied review yesterday of a landmark medical marijuana dispensary case, which drew widespread attention from prosecutors and policymakers across the state. The Fourth District Court of Appeal for California issued a unanimous published ruling on October 24th in the case of People v. Jackson, reversing the conviction of former San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson and establishing a clear defense for Jackson and other medical marijuana providers similarly prosecuted in state court.
Notably, however, the State Supreme Court took decisive action yesterday in the way that it did, despite requests to depublish the appellate court decision from the League of California Cities and an amicus brief supporting the High Court’s review of the case from district attorneys in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Sonoma Counties, as well as the Los Angeles City Attorney.
“Not only has the California Supreme Court rejected attempts to have it review the Jackson case, thereby affirming the legality of medical marijuana sales and distribution in the state, it also chose not to depublish this landmark ruling benefiting thousands of patients,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, who represented Jackson in his appeal. “Even though the appellate court decision garnered significant opposition, patients have prevailed in their struggle to protect safe access to medical marijuana.”
Jackson was convicted in September 2010 after being denied a defense in San Diego Superior Court. However, yesterday’s decision not to review his case now entitles Jackson — and, by extension, other California dispensary operators — to a defense in state court. By rejecting the Attorney General’s argument that patients who utilize dispensaries must collaborate, or ‘come together’ in ‘some way’ to cultivate the marijuana they purchase, the appellate court ruling provided the elements for a defense in future jury trials across the state.
Specifically, the appellate ruling held that in mounting a defense at trial, “Jackson was only required to produce evidence which would create a reasonable doubt as to whether the defense provided by the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] had been established.” The court further held that, “the collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization. Thus, contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the large membership of Jackson’s collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense.”
ASA appealed Jackson’s conviction in late 2011, and his case quickly became a symbol of the effort by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and other prosecutors across the state to criminalize storefront medical marijuana collectives. However, today’s decision by the High Court not to review the case deals a significant blow to that effort.
Jackson operated his storefront collective without incident until he was raided by law enforcement in 2008. Jackson was tried for marijuana possession and sales in 2009, but was acquitted by a jury. Dissatisfied with that result, District Attorney Dumanis tried Jackson again on the same charges stemming from a September 2009 law enforcement raid. It was at his second trial that Jackson was denied a defense and ultimately convicted. San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore, who referred to medical marijuana as “dope,” and called California’s medical marijuana laws “a scam,” gave Jackson 180 days in jail, a sentence that was later vacated.
It seems the federal assault against the California medical marijuana industry loses steam with every new setback for them. How long can the feds go on fighting a losing battle?
I fear the answer to that question could be “a very long time,” be there are signs that we can be hopeful about, although they are insignificant to those already under federal threat, or worse, incarceration.