Pages tagged "Terrie Best"

  • 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.
  • Imperial Beach to Ban Collective Cultivation; City Council Refuses to Implement State’s Medical Marijuana Laws

    By: Eugene Davidovich and Marcus Boyd



    Imperial Beach, CA - On June 15, 2011 at 7pm, the Imperial Beach City Council will discuss and vote to enact an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and all collective cultivation efforts in the City of Imperial Beach.

    Although the staff report compiled for the June 15th meeting states, “the ordinances would not ban medical marijuana in the city,” the actual wording of the proposed law goes much further than merely banning storefronts. If approved, medical cannabis patients in Imperial Beach would be banned from associating to collectively or cooperatively cultivate medical marijuana, an activity explicitly authorized and protected under State Law.

    The proposed ban severely limits legal access for seriously injured, sick and dying patients and their caregivers. Those with no space to cultivate, those without the requisite gardening skills to grow their own, and most critically those who face the sudden onset of serious illness, would be forced to ‘plow the fields’ themselves.

    “Is that legal?” asked John, a resident of Imperial Beach and supporter of local dispensaries when told about the City’s proposed ban.

    “The proposed restrictions are absurd and would serve to undermine the will of the people, not to mention the 2010 Grand Jury recommendations”, commented Terrie Best Board Member of the San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group.

    In August of 2009 when the City first enacted it’s moratorium on dispensaries, City officials promised the community that they would be moving towards an ordinance regulating access rather than banning it. In December of 2010 however, after seeing a modern-day Reefer Madness, 'Smear with Fear' eradication show, presented by San Diego County Sheriff and self proclaimed medical marijuana expert, Detective Michael Helms from the Licensing Division, the City began to shift direction.

    Recently, at the request of IB City officials Detective Helms once gain presented the County’s eradication show, this time to the Kiwanis Club of Imperial Beach. Following his presentation which was interrupted multiple times with questions and debate, it was clear that out of approximately ten Kiwanis members present at the meeting only one voiced opposition to well regulated dispensaries in the city.

    IB residents and supporters of medical cannabis however, have not given up and have been busy writing and mailing letters to their Council members all urging them to adopt reasonable regulations instead of a ban.

    “As part of the Imperial Beach Stop the Ban Campaign, volunteers have collected hundreds of letters all stamped and mailed to the attention of the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager” said Marcus Boyd, Vice Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access. “If the ordinances are approved as written, they will force sick and dying patients to obtain their medicine from illicit sources rather than from local, safe and regulated dispensing centers”.

    One cannot help but wonder why the council members are favoring a ban at the expense of the City’s most vulnerable residents.

    Concerned citizens and residents are urged to attend the June 15th City Council meeting no later than 7:00pm and speak out against the illegal ban. Sick and dying patients in the City of Imperial Beach deserve safe regulated access rather than a continued bias driven effort to overturn state law.

    June 15th, 2011 – 7pm - Imperial Beach City Hall 825 Imperial Beach Blvd

    Further Information:

    Proposed Zoning Ordinance

    Imperial Beach Proposed Ordinance Amending Business Licensing and Regulations

    Staff Report for June 15th Meeting

    Imperial Beach City Council Shifts Course on Dispensaries from Regulation to Eradication
  • 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: [email protected]