Judge's denial of medical pot defense in San Diego stirs fury

July 19, 2010

Peter Hecht, Sacramento Bee

Medical marijuana advocates are rallying to the cause of San Diego County defendant

com/James+Stacy/' class=' lingo_link lingo_link_hidden' style='cursor: pointer; display: inline; font-family: Georgia,"Times New Roman",Times,serif; font-size: 14px; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal;'>James Stacy, expressing hand-wringing outrage that the former dispensary operator is facing federal drug prosecution.

Stacy operated a medical pot shop, called "Movement in Action," in Vista. He was charged with federal counts of illegally manufacturing and distributing marijuana after a series of undercover buys by a San Diego County sheriff's detective and subsequent raids by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officers on his home and business.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz rejected Stacy's bid to throw out the charges on grounds that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder publicly signaled in comments last year that they wouldn't target medical marijuana operations in states where medical use is legal.

Moskowitz ruled July 12 that the Obama administration statements and policy directive on medical marijuana weren't a promise that "the DEA would never raid medical marijuana dispensaries claiming to operate in compliance with state law."

Moskowitz also agreed with prosecutors that Stacy couldn't present a "medical marijuana defense" based on California's Proposition 215 Compassionate Use Act that allowed medical pot use.

The ruling drew fierce protests from a marijuana patients' advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access.

"It is unconscionable for the federal government to continue prosecuting these cases and ruining people's lives," declared Caren Woodson, the organization's director of government affairs. Woodson also said Mosowitz's ruling "denied the accused a defense in federal court, all but guaranteeing a conviction in spite of the defendant's compliance with state law."

U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from Carmel, used the Stacy case to call for approval of legislation he is sponsoring to allow "defendants like Stacy" to offer evidence in federal court that their use of medical marijuana was legal under state laws. He said the legislation "would correct this aberration of justice and ensure than no one else will needlessly face years in prison."

Stacy, who due to stand trial August 30, is the latest high-profile defendant in long-running law enforcement efforts targeting medical pot distribution in San Diego County.

In an appearance before the San Diego City Council after his arrest, Stacy called for marijuana's legalization "so we do not have to suffer through publicity-seeking law enforcement and politicians that will re-interpret the law to suit their needs." He called medical marijuana "a gift from God" for patients, including the "sick and dying."

After executing search warrants on Stacy's home and business last September, authorities seized 96 marijuana plants, pot food products, business records and a loaded semi-automatic pistol.

Stacy responds, below, in a clip from his City Council appearance.

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