San Diego, CA -- Local medical marijuana dispensary operator Jovan Jackson was convicted by a jury today on all three counts of possession and sales. However, the conviction came after San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore refused to allow Jackson a medical defense at trial. The trial began last week, with the jury taking less than 24 hours to reach a verdict. Jackson is likely to appeal the conviction and his inability to use a medical defense. Leading medical marijuana patients' rights group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had previously submitted a brief in Jackson's case supporting his right to a medical defense and is considering assisting with an appeal.
"By refusing him a defense, the District Attorney and the court has railroaded Jackson and ensured his conviction," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who submitted the amicus 'friend of the court' brief in support of Jackson prior to his trial. "Jackson was denied a fair trial," Elford continued. "His conviction and the basis on which the court relied in refusing him a defense -- that sales are illegal under state law -- should absolutely be appealed."
Jackson was the former operator of the San Diego medical marijuana dispensary Answerdam Alternative Care Collective. It was the second trial in less than a year for Jackson, who was arrested in a multi-agency law enforcement raid in September 2009. Jackson was acquitted by a jury in December of marijuana possession and distribution charges stemming from a 2008 arrest. This time, however, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis convinced Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore to deny Jackson a medical marijuana defense, virtually assuring a conviction.
"After the embarrassment of losing the first trial against Jovan Jackson, District Attorney Dumanis was desperate for a conviction," said Eugene Davidovich, head of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "Jackson should not have been denied a defense and should not be used as a scapegoat for the District Attorney's misguided position that medical marijuana sales are illegal." During jury selection last week, in an effort to keep medical marijuana out of the courtroom, Judge Shore went so far as to order Jackson's supporters to remove articles of clothing that displayed an Americans for Safe Access logo, including tote bags carried into the courtroom.
Today's verdict comes as both the San Diego City Council and County Board of Supervisors are developing local medical marijuana distribution laws that would regulate the same activity for which Jackson was convicted. A San Diego grand jury issued recommendations in June calling on city and county governments to implement the state's medical marijuana law. In particular, the grand jury called for the city and county to develop a "program for the licensing, regulation and periodic inspection of authorized collectives and cooperatives distributing medical marijuana."
As part of law enforcement's "Operation Green Rx," more than 60 people were arrested in several raids. Yet, of only two cases the District Attorney chose to take to trial, both had resulted in acquittals. In addition to Jackson's earlier acquittal, Davidovich was also acquitted of similar charges in March of this year.
San Diego grand jury recommendations on medical marijuana: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/grandjury/reports/2009-2010/MedicalMarijuanaReport.pdf