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.