Update: Jovan Jackson Case

In a significant loss for San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Jovan Jackson, a medical cannabis patient and former Answerdam Collective Operator, will serve only three years probation and a handful of months in a work furlough program in lieu of imprisonment. This is after a five-year chain of prosecutions at great expense to taxpayers.  Further, under a judge’s order, which came yesterday, Jovan Jackson will be allowed to use his medical cannabis throughout his probation.  This means that under scrutiny of the state’s parole board, Jovan will enjoy the court’s blessing to use medical cannabis.

Clearly there has been no gain to the public from this lengthy and expensive travesty perpetrated by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The decisions made by our DA to squander precious resources on prosecuting medical cannabis patients are not in furtherance of public safety but are a political message from the DA.  Dumanis is using her office budget to further her political career, and it has come to the attention of voters and the law enforcement groups who refuse to back her re-election campaign.

In the hearing amid a packed galley of Jovan’s supporters, two local TV cameras and a couple of reporters, Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg – the prosecutor who for five years has doggedly pursued local jail time for Jovan – now argued for 365 days of prison time. For Jovan this would have meant state prison over the holidays, loss of his job and becoming a state expense for a year.  And, his life would be changed forever with the lifelong stigma of prison on his otherwise spotless record.  Prison priors, as opposed to simple county jail time, are rarely expunged.

Defense attorney Lance Rogers – who has been with Jovan over his five-year ordeal – argued very well against the year-long prison sentence, citing People v Henderson and People v Hanson, which hold a criminal case retried on appeal, as Jackson’s case was, may not carry a harsher sentence than what was previous established.  Jovan’s prior sentence, the result of his second trial held before judge Shore, was 180 days in county jail. Therefore it was the defense position that 365 days in state prison was not a lawful sentence.

Lance Rogers also provided the court certain facts about the climate of medical marijuana in San Diego. He pointed out that by operating Answerdam Jovan was engaged in activity already sanctioned by the San Diego County Medical Marijuana Ordinance.  And that Jovan’s case had, in many ways, provided clarity to the evolving medical cannabis laws in the state.

Lindberg’s arguments were completely devoid of any legal authority to increase Jovan’s sentence to a year’s prison time.  Rather he used inflammatory statements and resorted to name-calling such as “greedy profiteer” and made demands for punishment with vitriol such as “The medical marijuana community should WANT Jovan in jail.”  The many supporters in the courtroom, including this one, would have disagreed, and I hung my head listening to the prosecutor use our tax money to conduct himself in this ill-manner against a gentleman such as Jovan.

Louis R. Hanoian, the judge who had overseen the latest and third jury trial of Jovan, agreed with the defense that state prison time was not appropriate in this case. Judge Hanoian went a step further and paved the way for a work furlough opportunity as well. Work furlough had not been on the table in the pre-appeal sentencing before Judge Shore. The program is a means for inmates to serve jail sentences in facilities outside county jail.

At the end of sentencing and in a courageous and unprecedented move, Jovan requested to be heard by Judge Hanoian. Once permission was granted, Jovan made a very heartfelt plea that he be allowed to use medical cannabis while on probation.  After questioning the probation officer on-hand and finding it is a decision left to court judges, Judge Louis Hanoian ordered the probation department to honor Jovan’s right to use his medication.

This is not the first time medical cannabis patients have been punished in courts with probation for possessing cannabis only to have a judge turn around and allow use of the medicine lawfully as a probationer.

Jovan’s attorneys Lance Rogers and Rezwan Khan will work with other attorneys to appeal this latest verdict which occurred in early November, 2013.

The long story of Jovan Jackson and Answerdam medical cannabis collective began with two SWAT style raids which resulted in three different criminal trials for Jovan. The first of Jovan’s trials stemmed from a raid in August of 2008 and he was acquitted on all medical cannabis charges.

After the second raid in September, 2009, Jovan was tried a second time but denied a medical cannabis defense by Judge Howard Shore on the grounds that Answerdam had to have only cultivating members to be entitled to the collective defense under the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA). As a result of the denial of his defense, Jovan was found guilty in his second trail.

The guilty verdict was overturned by a successful appeal (People v. Jackson) filed by Americans for Safe Access and Lance Rogers. People v Jackson returned Jovan’s second case for retrial with the benefit of the MMPA, this time in front of Judge Hanoian.  The third trial before Judge Hanoian resulted unfavorably and the sentence hearing yesterday marked the conclusion until an appeal to this current verdict is filed.

The medical cannabis community, along with Jovan Jackson, now has another appeal to fight. To donate in support of our friend and hero, please go to http://www.gofundme.com/5cro6c.  All donations go directly to Jovan via a crowd-funding account set up by him for this purpose. 

To stay current on Jovan’s court battle, please “Like” the Fight on Jovan Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/FightOnJovanJackson

Read the daily updates from Jovan’s 2013 trial: http://www.safeaccesssd.com/2013/11/daily-updates-from-jovan-jackson-medical-marijuana-trial.html

For more information, please contact San Diego Americans for Safe Access Court Support Coordinator, Terrie Best at [email protected]

Join the Peace for Patients Campaign by calling on Congress to stop the war on patients and resolve the conflict between federal and state laws once and for all. Sign the Petition TODAY! – Click here for more information: http://www.safeaccesssd.com/2013/11/peace-for-patients.html


This blog originally appeared on the San Diego Safe Access Blog.