D.A. on a losing streak again targets medical pot defendant

August 18, 2010

Peter Hecht, Sacramento Bee

For more than two years now, authorities in

com/San+Diego+County/' rel='nofollow'>San Diego County have been targeting marijuana defendant Jovan Jackson, a Navy veteran who operated a pot dispensary called Answerdam Alternative Care.

Last December, a jury acquitted Jackson on charges of illegal possession and sales of marijuana in connection with July, 2008 medical pot purchases from an undercover officer who signed up at the Answerdam dispensary using a false name.

Now Jackson is going to trial again on similar charges in connection with a September, 2009 raid that targeted the dispensary as part of an "Operation Green Rx" law enforcement crackdown on marijuana businesses.

His second prosecution by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is infuriating medical marijuana advocates. They charge the D.A. is targeting legitimate medical marijuana providers and seeking to deny Jackson the right to use the state's 215 Compassionate Use Act as his legal defense.

Steve Walker, a spokesman for Dumanis, said the D.A. isn't targeting legal medical marijuana in her on-going series of pot prosecutions. He said she is prosecuting illegal pot sales that are not covered by the state's 1996 medical marijuana law.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in support of Jackson, the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access disputes Dumanis' "contention that medical marijuana sales are not permitted by patient collectives under California law."

"To deny a medical marijuana provider the ability to defend himself in court based on an argument that what he did was illegal, not only ignores relevant medical marijuana law, but also smacks of circular logic," Joe Elford, the group's lawyer, said in a statement defending pot dispensary transactions. "Dumanis appears against the wall in trying to prove her ill-reasoned legal theory and is attempting anything that will give her the advantage at trial."

The D.A. hasn't had the best of success in prosecuting people claiming to be medical marijuana providers.

Besides losing the first Jackson case, Dumanis was thwarted in a high-profile prosecution of a local marijuana activist, Eugene Davidovich. Davidovich, who operated a medical pot home delivery service, was acquitted March 26 of illegally selling and possessing marijuana.

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