Pages tagged "Bonnie Dumanis"


San Diego prosecutor to try dispensary operator for third time

Third time’s a charm? Not in the case of Navy veteran and former San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson.

San Diego Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Chris Lindberg decided this week to try Jackson for a third time in as many years. Jackson, who operated the San Diego dispensary Answerdam Alternative Care Collective (AACC), was raided by a multi-agency law enforcement task force in 2008 and again in 2009. Jackson was tried the first time on possession and distribution charges, but was acquitted by a jury in 2009.

Unsatisfied with that result, ADA Lindberg, likely at the behest of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, tried Jackson a second time on charges levied after the 2009 raid on AACC. The second trial was not considered “double jeopardy” by the court because the prosecution was based on a different raid. During Jackson’s second trial in 2010, Lindberg prevented him from using a medical marijuana defense and, as a result, was convicted this time on the same charges of possession and distribution.

Outraged by this official persecution of a law-abiding dispensary operator and the waste of taxpayer dollars, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) appealed Jackson’s conviction in late 2011. In a unanimous landmark decision by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, Jackson’s conviction was overturned in October 2012. The court also held that Jackson should have been entitled to a medical marijuana defense, rejecting arguments made by both Lindberg and the Attorney General that patients must take part in the cultivation used to supply dispensaries.

Although the Attorney General decided not to appeal the 2012 ruling overturning Jackson’s conviction, in an unusual move Lindberg appealed to the California Supreme Court. Clearly disappointed by the High Court’s decision earlier this year not to review the case, Lindberg is seeking to try Jackson again. This time, however, Jackson is ensured a defense at trial.

The new trial, which has been set for May 1st in San Diego County Superior Court, is clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars in a time of fiscal crisis, but is also a futile attempt to undermine patients’ rights to safely and legally obtain their medication from storefront dispensaries.

Since the landmark appellate ruling, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has indicated his disinterest in prosecuting state-compliant dispensary operators in the city. Mayor Filner has also promised to help pass an ordinance that would establish local dispensary regulations, thereby making Jackson’s third trial that much more superfluous, yet still injurious for Jackson.

It seems doubtful to say the least that Jackson could now be convicted by a jury. It’s long past time for law enforcement in San Diego to abandon its hostile stance toward medical marijuana and allow California law to be implemented without further interference.

A big win for ASA in San Diego

California’s 4th District Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of San Diego medical cannabis provider Jovan Jackson today. The decision in People v. Jackson recognizes the right of medical cannabis dispensaries to exist and provide medicine to patient-members.  The decision further clarifies that members can participate in the association though financial contributions (sales) alone. This is an important milestone, because until now, some law enforcement and law makers all have refused to acknowledge that patients can organize cooperative and collective associations that sell medical marijuana. Today’s decision may have far-reaching implications for local and state implementation and regulation of medical marijuana.



Jovan Jackson was first arrested for providing medical cannabis in the City of San Diego in 2008. He was prosecuted for cannabis possession and sales and acquitted by the jury. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a steadfast opponent of medical cannabis, retried him on the same charges in 2009. In that case, Superior Court Judge Howard Shore denied Mr. Jackson the right to use California’s medical cannabis laws as a defense in court. Judge Shore referred to medical cannabis as “dope” and called state medical cannabis laws a “sham” during the trial.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took Mr. Jackson’s appeal last year, because we knew this case was important for the future of safe access in California. Medical cannabis opponents have argued steadfastly that every member of a patients’ association must physically participate in the cultivation of plants and that no member can buy medicine. ASA disagreed, and this was just the case to settle the issue. Relying heavily on People v. Colvin, a prior appellate decision in the California’s 2nd District, the court ruled that
"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 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."

The California Attorney General may decide to appeal the Jackson decision, and ASA will be ready to fight this case all the way to the state Supreme Court. Regardless of what comes next in court, patients should hope lawmakers are listening to court today. California votes called on state officials to “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana” when they approved Proposition 215 in 1996. State lawmakers tried to further clarify the issue when the adopted the Medical Marijuana Program Act in 2003. That bill explicitly allowed collective and cooperative associations and provided for reimbursements for medicine.  It is past time for prosecutors like Ms. Dumanis, local law makers, and state representatives to stop stall and start regulating.

9.9.9. Raids Remembered



By: Eugene Davidovich

The month of September has eternally been etched into memories of medical marijuana patients in San Diego. September 9th, marks the second anniversary of District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis’ Operation Green Rx raids; the largest one day swat style assault against medical marijuana access in San Diego County’s history.

In the early hours of Wednesday, September 9, 2009, Dumanis’ underlings, in collaboration with local DEA agents all part of the County’s cross-jurisdictional Narcotic Task Force (NTF), were set loose on the San Diego patient community.

Under the guise of “cracking down on illegal drug dealers,” that morning, federal and local law enforcement descended on over twenty dispensaries in the County. NTF agents seized medicine, money, patient records, and anything else they could get their hands on.

When the dust settled, it was discovered that only fourteen of the twenty plus locations raided had signed search warrants issued against them. The rest were intimidated into letting the NTF teams in without any paperwork. The operation was designed to instill fear and chaos into the patient community and to achieve a single goal; outright eradication of access to medical marijuana in the County.

It was also later discovered that detectives involved in the raids possessed medical marijuana cards themselves. All were obtained under aliases and by falsifying medical conditions by which they duped local doctors into issuing recommendations.

Detectives joined dispensaries as members and began regularly purchasing medicine from them prior to the raids. This allowed them to identify key management personnel as well as to understand the layout of the facilities in preparation for the day of raids.

Although dozens of sick and dying patients were arrested on 9/9/9, Dumanis’ office ended up filing charges against only small handful. Jovan Jackson, the director of Answerdam was among the few charged in State court. James Stacy director of Movement in Action, along with a few others were tossed over to the US Attorney’s office for federal prosecution.

In Stacy’s case, the federal charges carried with them a threat of life in prison. After a year of fighting to be allowed to bring up the words “medical marijuana” at trial, Stacy succeeded.

With the community’s full support and great legal representation by federal public defenders, the Federal Judge agreed Stacy was in full compliance with state law. Although an official medical marijuana defense was not granted, the Judge agreed there was no way to keep the mention of medical marijuana and Stacy’s compliance with state law out of trial which potentially could have resulted in a federal acquittal, mistrial, or outright jury nullification.

In order to avoid further embarrassment the day before trial was to start, the US Attorney’s office made Stacy an unprecedented offer. They guaranteed no jail time and agreed to drop all charges if Stacy pled guilty to one count of cultivation.

Overnight, Stacy went from facing the possibility of life in federal prison, to three years probation with no jail time. Such an unprecedented offer was impossible to refuse and was a clear sign of the US Attorney acknowledging the sheer failure of the raids on legitimate patients.

Although the US Attorney technically got a conviction in that case, their offer paved the way for all dispensary operators in compliance with state laws who are charged in Federal court to either take their case to trial or demand the ‘Stacy Deal’.

In Jackson’s case, the raid on September 9th was the second time his facility had been hit in less than a year by Dumanis’ office. The day before the second raid, on September 8, while attending a routine court hearing for charges related to the first raid, Jackson was suddenly and without explanation taken into custody.

With Jackson in solitary confinement, Answerdam was raided for a second time on September 9th and a new case with a second set of identical charges was filed by Dumanis’ office.

When Jackson’s first case went to trial, it lasted almost three weeks. Having been assigned a fair Judge, twelve jurors examined all the facts of the case and carefully considered them against the State’s complete medical marijuana law. As a result, they quickly and unanimously found Jackson in compliance and not guilty of all the marijuana related charges.

In Jackson’s second trial however, Dumanis managed to hand pick Judge Howard Shore, a former prosecutor and traditional prohibitionist who blocked Jackson from using the medical marijuana defense in state court. This time, the jury only saw a redacted version of the laws which specifically excluded the language about collectives and cooperatives, the very language which jurors from the first case relied on in finding Jackson not guilty.

Having been denied knowledge of the previous trial and unable to apply the medical marijuana defense, jurors in the second trial were forced to convict him. Jackson’s second case is currently under appeal by Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group.

Two years later and without question, Operation Green Rx has been an utter failure and colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Aside from Stacy and Jackson, the vast majority of the patients raided on 9/9/9 have not been charged, prosecuted, or even summoned for a court appearance. All the money, cannabis, and other personal property seized that day has not been returned, and those patients who attempted to get their property back through the courts, were told by Dumanis’ office that felony charges would be filed if they tried.

After realizing that her eradication campaign failed, instead of working with patients to find common ground, Dumanis renamed the operation from ‘Green Rx’ to ‘Green Dope’ to better match her rhetoric of “going after drug dealers” and in the meantime, instructed the NTF Raid Teams to keep their focus on individual patients cultivating medicine, rather than mass raids, and to especially target those contributing their excess to the dispensaries.

Stemming from raids and investigations conducted by Dumanis’ office post Green Rx and in connection with the new and improved ‘Operation Green Dope’, several cases are already making their way to trial.

Dumanis recently announced her candidacy for the City of San Diego’s 2012 Mayoral race. If elected she would become Mayor of the largest jurisdiction in the County and a City which over 180 dispensaries as well as over 50,000 medical marijuana patients call home.

In recent statements in response to media inquiries about her attacks on patients, Dumanis continues to dupe voters, still publicly claiming to support medical marijuana and justifying her incessant attacks on access as fighting “nothing but illegal drug dealers”.

Patients, caregivers, advocates and concerned citizens, are committed to fight Dumanis’ bias driven war, and will not rest until the she is held accountable and the public is made aware of her track record on this issue.

As a direct result of Dumanis’ actions, September 9th, will always be remembered as a dark day in San Diego’s medical marijuana history and one that will continue to serve as a clear example of the failed war on medical marijuana patients.

For more information contact Eugene Davidovich at eugene.davidovich@gmail.com

Chula Vista Police Strong-Arm Medical Marijuana Patients

Chula Vista Police Strong-Arm Medical Marijuana Patients


By: Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access, August 14, 2011

Patients stand up in the face of threats, violence, and intimidation by Chula Vista Police Department during an illegal attempt to search Green Power medical marijuana collective in South San Diego.

Chula Vista – On July 12, at 10:45pm the Chula Vista City Council adopted an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, cooperatives and collectives within city limits. The late hour vote was intentional so as to prevent members of the public from speaking against the ban.

Leading up to vote, patients, concerned citizens and supporters of safe access had diligently attended Council meetings for over two years pleading with their local representatives to protect sick and dying patients in their community. Dozens of patients turned out to meetings and sent letters and emails asking for reasonable regulations rather than a ban.

The City Council ignored the pleas of sick and dying patients and decided to side with the reefer madness propaganda fed to them by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as well as San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis who continue to claim that all dispensaries are illegal and attract crime even though actual data shows otherwise.

The vote as well as the Council Members’ comments on July 12th appeared to have given a green light to the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) to force existing safe access out of the City and to send a strong message of disregard to medical marijuana patients in Chula Vista.

Days after the vote was ratified and wasting no time, the CVPD posted police cars outside of existing dispensaries in Chula Vista and began pulling patients over as soon as they exited parking lots of the facilities. They questioned those pulled over, searched their vehicles, and in many cases confiscated their medicine issuing citations despite legitimate patient paperwork.

“They stopped me for no reason, asked what I bought at the dispensary, took my medicine, humiliated me and told me that medical marijuana was a joke” said Joe, a terminally ill cancer patient after experiencing an encounter with CVPD outside of a collective in Chula Vista. “I told them that I was legal, that I was using this medicine to overcome debilitating symptoms related to the chemo, but they wouldn’t hear it, the cop told me that the medical marijuana thing was a scam.”

The CVPD did not settle on simply harassing patients leaving the dispensaries, they decided to step it up a notch and go after the facilities themselves. Rather than follow the law and go through proper civil channels to start a dialogue with the collectives, the CVPD instead sent ‘patient eradication squads’ to beat the facilities into closure.

On July 26, the Green Power medical marijuana collective, almost fell victim to one of these ‘Chula Vista Patient Eradication Squad’. That day the collective had a locksmith at their location installing a new set of locks for the front door. At approximately 12:55pm as the locksmith was crouched over, installing the lock, several uniformed and plain clothed officers approached the door of the collective, pushed the locksmith aside, shouting, “Who is the owner here?!”

Long, a medical marijuana patient and member of the collective walked out of the medicine room into the front reception area where the police were huddled and said “How may I help you officers?”.

At first, they cops put on a friendly face and sat down on one of the couches as if to talk to Long. Within seconds of sitting down, two officers stood up and tried to rush the medicine room with the intent of searching the facility. Long stood up, walked calmly to the door of the medicine room and explained to the officers that because they did not have a search warrant, they could not go into the room.

At that instant the two officers turned angry and violent, they grabbed Long, slapped handcuffs on him and physically threw him on the ground. The cops were heard saying “Search Warrant, ha, don’t you know we are Chula Vista PD and can go anywhere we want?”

Long continued to remain calm and told the officers again that they had not showed him a search warrant, that he did not consent to a search, and asked them to immediately vacate the premises.

To everyone’s surprise, instead of continuing to strong-arm and physically assault Long the cops un-cuffed him and quickly scattered out of the facility.

The locksmith who witnessed the entire encounter was practically paralyzed with fear and shock after seeing the barbaric and brutal nature with which they interacted with Long at the collective.

The collective is currently consulting with their legal counsel about potential litigation or action against the Chula Vista Police Department as well as the officers themselves.

For more information contact sandiegoasa@gmail.com

DA Bonnie Dumanis Pushes on with Prosecution of Legal San Diego Medical Marijuana Collective

By: Terrie Best, San Diego Americans for Safe Access


Legal cannabis patient Dexter Padilla was in court last week in front of Judge Albert T. Hartunian III as he and his attorney, Michael J. McCabe, of the Davidovich victory, fought it out with Prosecutor Ramin Tohidi over whether there was enough prosecutorial evidence to bind the case over for trial.

The Preliminary Examination of the evidence on one count of cannabis cultivation and one count of possession with intent to distribute came after a series of exhaustive disclosure meetings between attorneys for defense and prosecution where, the defense’ witness, Mark Wuerfel, Esq. Dexter’s civil attorney, laid open Dexter’s books, Articles of Incorporation papers, Bylaws and every other piece of evidence to show Dexter’s lawfulness in his cultivation and possession of medical cannabis.

The disclosure meetings proved both unusual and ultimately unsuccessful, based on the fact that Bonnie Dumanis’ office stubbornly refuses to drop this case against a shinning example of a patient citizen’s efforts to navigate the murky medical marijuana laws and her refusal to interpret the law in a manner that is fiscally responsible and logical.

Preliminary exam proceedings began with the prosecution’s first witness, Detective Paul Paxton of the San Diego Police Department. Paxton, cross-sworn as a DEA Agent and part of Dumanis’ expensive and politically conceived Narcotics Task Force (NTF), testified to having 12 years as a narcotics officer with training from various drug enforcement entities as well as “what he’s seen on TV” about drug enforcement.

Paxton denied training in medical marijuana but went on to explain his interpretation of plant yields. An interpretation which defense held him accountable for on cross as Mr. McCabe wrangled with Paxton to admit un-rooted cuttings have only a 30% survival rate and other contrived opinions about yields from Paxton’s testimony.

Mr. McCabe, in his cross also examined the details of the investigation which led to the search warrant and raid of Dexter Padilla’s legally grown cannabis. Of note is that Paxton’s surveillance, which took but one day, included the knowledge that Dexter was involved in a legitimate medical cannabis co-op and was in fact providing medicine to patients. Paxton, instead of attempting to verify the co-op, or contact it’s directors, went ahead and obtained the search warrant and raided the warehouse where Dexter grew for his patients, destroying the medicine which was intended to provide relief for those patients.

Mr. McCabe put forth a number of exhibits in defense of Dexter’s co-op, including, Articles of Incorporation with language about the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and signed by the Secretary of State, the co-op’s financials, prepared by a CPA, Bylaws and minutes from the Board of Directors meetings as well as patient and grower contracts, the latter of which included language for oversight of each grow as well as legal doctors’ cannabis recommendations for each grower.

In a fastidious but prickly move, Tohidi demanded the doctor recommendations be removed from each grower contract packet as he questioned the validity of the recommendations.

Arguments for the defense brought Mr. Wuerfel to the stand, who not only served as Dexter’s civil attorney but the Custodian of Records for the co-op. Tohidi fretted, in his attempt to eliminate Mr. Wuerfel as a witness, that he would opine on law and maneuver to school the judge. However, the judge allowed Mr. Wuerfel to take the stand.

Mr. Wuerfel a former federal law clerk, attorney of 33 years, law professor and founder of Redwood Law Group, testified to the lengths he advised Dexter to go to demonstrate lawfulness in his co-op and the methods of disclosure he recommended.

Among the advice Dexter followed were processes for board of director oversight, source/cultivation documentation, financial considerations and tax oversight, methods of facilitating the examination of these documents by co-op members and law enforcement and host of other mechanisms meant to exceed the most stringent view of the Attorney General Guidelines for Medical Marijuana. It was on Mr. Wuerfel’s recommendation that Dexter re-file his current Articles of Incorporation papers to include the CUA language.

In final argument Mr. McCabe referred to a number of cases including People v. Konow 2004, a case McCabe himself won, in which a patient/defendant may suggest that the court dismiss a case ” in the interest of justice”, and the court has the power to do so.

However, while Judge Hartunian admitted the prosecution had not proven unlawfulness, he, never-the-less, bound Dexter Padilla over for trial so his case could go before a jury.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dexter and Mr. Wuerfel about the climate of medical cannabis law in California, Mr. Wuerfel, who has had his own struggles with federal agents in defense of legal medical cannabis law, stated that often in these cases the procedure is the punishment but expressed confidence that Dexter had conducted his co-op with his i’s dotted and t’s crossed and it would likely not escape jury notice.

Dexter will be arraigned on July 28, 2011 in Department 11.

First Permitted Dispensary Receives Final Permit from San Diego County Sheriff



By: Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access

On July 1, 2011, Mother Earth’s Alternative Healing Cooperative Inc. received their final permit the “Medical Marijuana Collective Operations Certificate”, signed by Sheriff Gore himself, allowing the coop to operate in full compliance with the law.

Located at 8157 Wing Avenue, El Cajon, CA 92020, the grand opening will be held on Monday, July 4th to commemorate Independence Day and the coop’s regular hours of operation will be Monday through Saturday, 10am-8pm.

“We are very excited about providing safe, reliable access to patients in San Diego who suffer from seriously ill and in many cases debilitating conditions” said Bob Reidel, official spokesperson for the coop.

The ordinance regulating the coop was adopted by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors (BOS) over a year ago, and allows dispensaries to open only if they are located in an industrial zone, 1,000 feet away from the most comprehensive laundry list of sensitive uses ever created in the history of our County’s zoning regulations. The list includes: parks, churches, residences, schools, libraries, youth service facilities and other dispensaries, etc.

On June 23, 2010, the day the ordinance passed, patients and advocates were convinced it would ultimately result in no access in the County. Several land-use experts commissioned by San Diego ASA examined the zoning restrictions and came to the same conclusion; it would be at least a year until a permitted collective would emerge and the chance of a complete ban and no access were high if not inevitable.

A year later, through perseverance, dedication and support of the community, patients have overcome the bureaucratic hurdles setup by the BOS and have come into full compliance with the new stringent requirements.

Situated in a 15,000 square foot commercial building in an industrial zone next to Gillespie Air Field, the coop includes a dispensing center with privacy booths where members receive consultations about their cannabis therapy from licensed pharmaceutical technicians and an onsite state of the art testing facility, where all medicine prior to being dispensed to patients goes through gas chromatography, mold and pesticide testing.

While some of the medicine will come from a small on-site grow, the majority, as required by law, will be cultivated by members at their homes and may go through an inspection by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

“Now, in San Diego County, we have safe, secure access, as well as additional protections for patients, especially those who cultivate their own medicine” said Bob Reidel. “At the end of the day, we want patients to stop fearing the police and to know that they can call 911 just like any other citizen.”

Aside from creating a safe place for patients to obtain their medicine the coop will be politically active in the community and is now the new home of East San Diego ASA monthly chapter meetings.

Further Information:
First Permitted Medical Marijuana Coop to Open in San Diego County Unincorporated Area

40,000 Signatures in Less than 30 Days; Referendum on City Council’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance Enters Signature Verification Process

40,000 Signatures in Less than 30 Days; Referendum on City Council’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance Enters Signature Verification Process


Eugene Davidovich, May 26, 2011

In April of this year, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance that effectively denied safe access to thousands of patients in the city. If left as is, it would have negatively impacted the most vulnerable members of our community by cutting off access to their medicine.



As the ordinance is written, all locations where patients currently safely obtain their medicine, would be forced to shutter their doors and only a small handful would be allowed to open in far flung industrial areas of the City, only after coming into compliance with an onerous year-long conditional use permit process.

The City Council rather than considering amendments to the ordinance suggested by their own medical marijuana task force and thousands of concerned citizens who wrote letters as part of the City’s largest letter writing campaign, on April 12 approved the restrictions and ignored the unprecedented public opposition.

After the City Council’s ordinance took effect at the end of April and with only 30 days to circulate a petition to repeal the ordinance, a group of collective directors quickly organized and formed the Patient Care Association and Citizens for Patient Rights Political Action Committee. Comprised of over 50 local medical marijuana collectives, the association within days raised enough funds to hire the La Jolla Group, a professional signature gathering company, and undertook a massive effort to gather enough signatures to repeal the ordinance through a referendum process.

San Diego Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group, provided the association with direction and guidance on messaging as well as an alternative ordinance to propose to voters following the referendum. At the same time ASA’s legal department began to gear up for a lawsuit with the city and on April 28, sent a letter to the City urging them to ease up their restriction or face a challenge in court.

As announced by San Diego ASA on May 4th, the referendum signature drive was underway and in less than 30 days, the La Jolla Group as well as all the collectives involved, gathered over 40,000 signatures, proving yet again the medical marijuana community in San Diego to be a serious political force.

The signatures are expected to be turned in to the City Clerk’s office on Friday, May 26 and will effectively place on hold the overly restrictive ordinance passed by the council from becoming law in the City.

Once the Clerk’s office turns the signatures over to the County’s Registrar of Voters, the verification process will begin and as required by law must be completed within 30 days. If the registrar confirms there are enough valid signatures, the Council will be forced to make a decision; place their overly restrictive ordinance on the ballot for a vote of the people or repeal it at the next available council meeting.

If the City forces the referendum to a vote and decides against repealing the ordinance, depending on the date the signatures are determined valid by the Registrar of Voters, the City may have to call a special election costing millions, or instead place the ordinance on the June 2012 primary ballot for a vote.

As for the effort currently underway by Code Enforcement to shut the existing facilities down, according to the City Attorney’s office, the status quo will be maintained. Landlords will continue to be harassed, patients will continue to face threats of lawsuits and intimidation, and they City Attorney plans on continuing to wage their war on patients. Their official position remains unchanged; the facilities currently operating would still be doing so without a valid business license and with no zoning in the City’s municipal code to allow for their use.

The voting residents of San Diego overwhelmingly support safe and reliable access to medical cannabis for qualified patients in their neighborhood and are against the restrictions approved by the council as well as the effort to shut the existing facilities down. The San Diego community hopes the council will move forward with adopting the recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Task Force and amend the overly restrictive ordinance.

If the City refuses to respect the recommendations of their own task force and continues on the path to shut access down without providing a reasonable alternative, they will face continued litigation and the medical marijuana community plans on quickly moving forward with a voter initiative which would once and for all, create reasonable rules and clarity for patients in the City to follow.

Further Information:

For more information about the Citizens for Patient Rights PAC visit: www.citizens4patientrights.org

SD ASA’s May 4 Announcement about Referendum: http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2011/05/patient-care-association-of-california.html

ASA threatens to sue City of San Diego: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/San_Diego_Demand_Letter.pdf

City Council Medical Marijuana Ordinance: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/City_of_San_Diego_Ordinance.pdf

For the latest information on medical marijuana in San Diego visit: www.safeaccesssd.org

Bonnie Dumanis Continues War on Collective Cultivation in San Diego








Benjamin Gasper
Cultivation charges re-filed against legitimate medical marijuana patient after being previously dismissed in the same courthouse by different Judge.

By: Terrie Best and Eugene Davidovich - San Diego Americans for Safe Access

SAN DIEGO – In the summer of 2009, Benjamin Gasper, along with two other seriously ill medical marijuana patients rented a warehouse space in the Sports Arena area of San Diego in a heavily commercial district far from residences and other “sensitive uses,” and began to collectively cultivate medical marijuana there, for their own personal medical needs.



In fact, all three members of the collective, as court documents have shown, signed an agreement which stated, “As qualified medical marijuana patients under California law, we choose to associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. All members of our medical marijuana collective will contribute labor, funds, or materials, and all will receive medicine.”

In November of 2009, several policemen entered the premises to conduct a “safety check”; according to the officers, they believed a burglary might have been in progress as the front warehouse roll up gate was slightly ajar. After over thirty minutes of searching, they happened on the entrance to the cultivation room which was completely isolated and sealed off from the main part of the warehouse.

After discovering and rummaging through the patient garden, even though the collective agreement, doctor’s statements and ID’s for all the members of the collective were present on site, they still arrested and charged Mr. Gasper with cultivation of marijuana.

In later court proceedings both members of the collective would testify on the stand they had signed the agreement and all actively contributed their labor, and money to the effort from the beginning all the way until the day of the raid.

Having gone through months of court proceedings and multiple hearings, Mr. Gasper’s charges were finally thrown out by a judge at 995 hearing in June of 2010.

Bonnie Dumanis the San Diego District Attorney (DA) however, did not give up persecuting Mr. Gasper. In line with her ‘fierce fight’ against patients and her commitment to waste precious law enforcement resources on investigating and prosecuting these cases; the charges were refilled and an entirely new case started.

Many thought that if the charges had been previously resolved in another case, re-filing the same charges would be ‘double jeopardy.’ This is unfortunately not the case. Through a technicality in the law, the prosecution circumvented the ‘double jeopardy’ clause, and filed the same charges against Mr. Gasper this time hoping for a different judge and a better outcome.

On Wednesday, May 18, Mr. Gasper was in court again, this time, for his second preliminary hearing this time in front of the Honorable William H. Kronberger.

Representing Mr. Gasper in his second case was defense attorney and San Diego Americans for Safe Access board member Melissa Bobrow. For Dumanis’ office, hand-picked by Bonnie Dumanis herself to oversee the prosecution in this case as well as all other medical marijuana cases in San Diego County, was veteran ‘chief patient prosecutor’ Steve Walter.

In describing how Mr. Gasper was identified to be arrested in 2009, at the hearing on Wednesday, the cross-deputized SDPD Detective/Federal Agent, John Joseph Tangredi testified that he and Skylar Voyce, another NTF agent on the scene, found Mr. Gasper’s contact information posted neatly on the wall, so they simply dialed him up, told him his place had been raided and arrested him on the spot as soon as he arrived a few minutes after their call. Tangredi went on to testify that only later did they obtain a search warrant for the premises via telephone.

The detective claimed they discovered “134 cannabis plants in various stages of development”, even though court qualified expert witness William J. Britt at the preliminary hearing in the first case had examined the plants and determined otherwise. At the first preliminary hearing, Mr. Britt testified that the majority of the plants discovered during the search were either dead branches the detectives seemed to have counted as individual plants, or un-rooted cuttings that had recently been planted and were preserved for a future harvest.

Mr. Britt also determined that the amount of actual usable medicine (plants, dried flowers, etc.) was absolutely reasonable for the collective to have, based on the patients’ individual conditions and size of the effort compared with other similar collectives across the state.

At Wednesday’s hearing the detectives true intentions and bias began to surface when Tangretti testified that he believed Gasper’s grow itself to be indicia of sales even though when cross examined by Ms. Bobrow he admitted to finding no scale, packaging, pay and owe sheets or any other materials indicia of sales.

Tangredi further testified that in his ‘expert’ opinion, backed up by his claims of a meager 1.5 hours of training, the 134 plants (mostly dead branches) would have yielded a whopping 150 pounds of dried flower had they been allowed to mature.

The defense’s expert witness, William Britt again testified that the amount was completely reasonable and would more likely have yielded five pounds of dried flowers at most. Compared with Detective Tangredi’s 1.5 hours, Mr. Britt’s training includes hundreds of hours of both in-class and hands on training in medical cannabis yields, dosages, cultivation techniques, and use of medical cannabis by qualified patients.

DA Walter’s cross examination of Mr. Britt was focused on the absence of a defined dosage amount on Mr. Gasper’s recommendation. Mr. Britt explained the lack of scientific data and the illegality of writing prescriptions for specific dosages as the primary reason why no amount was specified.

Also testifying for the defense at Wednesday’s hearing was one of the other members of Mr. Gasper’s collective. Prior to his testimony, in a thoughtful move, the Judge ordered an attorney be assigned to advise the witness of his rights and be on hand during Walter’s cross examination to specifically represent the patient. Walter’s cross examination of the collective member included a barrage of questions about what the patient’s specific task were in the cultivation effort along with personal questions into the patient’s medical condition.

In the end, even though there was overwhelming evidence of clear and unambiguous compliance with State law, Mr. Gasper second case was bound over for trial with the judge explaining that inasmuch as the 134 plants seemed to be above the safe harbor amount allowed, he would have required a physician to take the stand and testify to medical necessity in order to consider the charges for dismissal.

The Judge conceded however, that due to the lack of scientific research on recommended dosages, the law was difficult to understand even for him.

Adapting well, Ms. Bobrow, highlighted in her arguments that navigating this law for Mr. Gaper has been arduous as well and that aside from the many other reasons why this case should be thrown out of court, on the vagueness of the law alone the case should be dismissed.

The Judge disagreed and cited a lack of precedent in these sorts of cases as his reason. He sent Mr. Gasper on to face trial and set the issue for the jury to determine.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, attorney Melissa Bobrow said, “Although Judge Kronberger did come to reasonable conclusion based on the lack of precedent, it is unfair for legitimate patients and caregivers trying to follow the law to be dragged through the criminal courts. The DA’s office should provide clarity on the law through a guideline rather than through continuing to expand resources on cases like this, which should have never been pursued in the first place”.

Medical cannabis patients in San Diego continue to be in a situation where the only way for them to prove they were following the law, is to be dragged through criminal court proceedings and trials that ruin lives and cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Gasper remains free on his ‘own recognizance’ and will be arraigned on June 2nd. At 1:30 in Department 11 of the San Diego Superior Courthouse.

For more information please email: sandiegoasa@gmail.com