Biggest Victory in the History Of Medical Marijuana in San Diego
By. Dion Markgraaff
Photo: William West
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, local medical marijuana patient provider Jovan Jackson emerged triumphant over San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanisâ€™ illegal scheme of persecuting the heroes who provide patients with safe access to their medicine.
Seemingly so blinded by her prejudice and ignorance that she will not follow the plain intent of the medical marijuana laws, Dumanis has used her unchecked power in increasingly barbaric ways.Â Instead of helping sick people, Dumanis has been happily standing in the doorway blocking their access to medicine and going all out against those like Mr. Jackson who want to assist people with safe access to medical cannabis.
But, despite the DAâ€™s best attempts to convict Mr. Jackson and close Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, the patient collective he manages, a brave jury of our peers declared Mr. Jackson INNOCENT of all marijuana charges and Answerdam Collective LEGAL.
According to juror Berry Right, â€œWhat we saw there was that everyone who was a member of Answerdam was making at least a monetary contribution, and that we felt the law was vague on whether that monetary contribution that ultimately goes toward cultivation is considered cooperative effort or not and because we had no definition of cooperative effort.Â It was not defined in the law that a cooperative effort needs to be literally raising and growing the plants.â€
Not only did the jury find the laws vague, they also saw through the San Diego Narcotics Departments entrapment scam. Using false claims of citizen complaints as justification, they had undercover officer Scott Henderson procure a California Drivers License using the alias Jamie Conlan, obtain a valid recommendation by making false representations to Dr. Donald Clark of qualifying illnesses, and fill out the paperwork to become one of the 1600 members of Answerdam.
Surprisingly, the Police and Dumanis thought this was a good use of their resources and time, in spite of the job killing budget deficits that plague our City and County. It turns out that they could have saved a lot of taxpayer money if they had started their witch hunt in Dumanisâ€™ own office.Â Evidence at the trial revealed that Dumanisâ€™ staff member, SD District Attorney James Pitts, is a member of Answerdam collective. Pitts has yet to be charged.
Mr. Jackson beat the SD District Attorneyâ€™s office, but it was a tough battle fought against foes that have that dangerous combination of endless resources coupled with an absence of common sense and shame.Â The eight years he spent in the Navy protecting our country and his two wartime deployments helped hone Mr. Jackson into the courageous and principled man he is, â€œI want to fight anyone who wants to fight me,â€ he said humbly. Over the twisted course of his criminal case, his mettle was proved.
Mr. Jacksonâ€™s legal odyssey began when he was arrested in the summer of 2008, when Answerdam was raided because of the â€˜cop acting like a sick person in need with a valid medical marijuana recommendation scamâ€™.
But his real story of helping and service starts much earlier. Mr. Jackson became involved in the medical marijuana community when he was diagnosed with TMJ syndrome in 2006. He noted the difficultly patients were having acquiring their medicine after all the dispensaries were shut down in the raids of Dec 2005 and July 2006.Â Opening Answerdam Alternative Care Collective was the dream of the then homeless veteran, who lost his mother to MS when he was young.Â So, despite the threat of great personal risk, using a re-enlistment bonus earned while serving in the Navy, Mr. Jackson formed Answerdam, a place where patients can collectively help each other obtain their medicine.
After his arrest, Mr. Jackson hired attorney Michael Cindrich and paid him a retainer. But after the preliminary hearing, Mr. Cindrich asked the court to remove him from the case because Mr. Jackson could not immediately afford to pay him more money.
It was then that Mr. Jackson was appointed a Public Defender. Mr. Jackson was offended by what he perceived as a complete lack of medical marijuana law knowledge and curiosity in his public defender Frank Birchak. Frustrated by the feeling that everyone, including his attorney, was just trying to get him to plead guilty, Mr. Jackson began going to the Courthouse and asking questions and filing motions.Â The Navy veteran who fiercely defended his country was determined to learn as much as he could in order to fight for his own freedom.
Apparently, the Court clerks donâ€™t like proactive defendants that want to be in charge of their own case. Amazingly, Mr. Jackson was arrested at the Courthouse and thrown into jail for trespassing after requesting a copy of his criminal complaint.
After this arrest, Mr. Jackson went before Judge Melinda Lasater on September 8, 2009 seeking to fire Birchak and gain permission to be his own attorney.Â But after a chambers conference between the judge and attorneys, Mr. Jackson was instead thrown into jail without bail for 22 days pending a 1368 psychological evaluation to see if he was competent to act as his own attorney.Â The right to be oneâ€™s own attorney is a fundamental human right which dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215, but even this was denied Mr. Jackson by Dumanis.
Mr. Jackson feels that DA Chris Lindberg told the Judge and Birchak about the planned raids of Answerdam and other dispensaries happening the next day, and that this information was the real reason he was jailed. This medieval tactic is a continuing pattern used by Dumanisâ€™ office to jail medical cannabis providers â€“ until they capitulate and plead guiltyâ€“ like in the case of Cletus Greathouse and others.
While in jail for the 22 days, Mr. Jackson became friends with an inmate who recommended the attorneys at Turner Law Group.Â Mr. Jackson called and was placed in contact with Lance Rogers, who drove out to the jail to talk to him for several hours even before Mr. Jackson had paid him anything.
Mr. Rogers took the case and began to fight hard.
At trial, Prosecutor Lindberg tried to draw a picture of a man who was selling marijuana only for profit.Â Lindberg introduced into evidence a $100,000 check that Mr. Jackson had allegedly sent to a financial broker, and began his prosecution by bringing up three undercover officers: Scott Henderson aka Jamie Conlan (see picture of recommendation), Officer Mark Carlson, and DEA terror specialist Officer Sean Turpe.
Each officer testified that they had received only about 1 hour of training on medical marijuana, that they could not remember what they had learned from that training, and that they had never seen a legal collective. Evidence in court has shown that undercover officer Scott Henderson had never read the medical cannabis law.
Confusion over the law has its source at the Prosecutorâ€™s office.Â DA Lindberg reportedly argued the meaning of the law in Court 180 degrees differently than in another medical cannabis case. In Mr. Jacksonâ€™s case, Lindberg correctly said the term â€˜collectiveâ€™, as it is used in the law, is a verb not a noun. In another famous medical cannabis case with Eugene Davidovich, the same prosecutor said the term â€˜collectiveâ€™, as used in the same law, is a noun not a verbâ€“ all in an ethically questionable effort seemingly designed to manipulate the law and the Court in an attempt to â€œwinâ€ at all costs.
Defense Attorney Rogers called cannabis expert Bill Britt, Dr. Clark, SD District Attorney and Answerdam member James Pitts, and a couple of other collective members to the stand. The testimony from patients was powerful, including one who said she went to Answerdam based on her â€œ1950â€™sâ€ value system of simple honesty. Through these testimonies the defense was able to establish that Mr. Jackson is a patient who manages a collective.Â Although, according to prop 215 patients are allowed to collectively associate and are exempt from prosecution, Mr. Jackson and his lawyer had to fight to prove his patient status.Â Luckily, he and â€œJamie Conlanâ€ had the same physician, Dr. Donald Clark.
Despite the upfront nature of collectives, the police investigations were poor. There was no basis for investigation â€“ an Officer Carlson revealed there were no complaints from anyone. The undocumented complaint seemed to come from the cops discussing how â€œeasyâ€ it was to get a recommendation at a certain doctorâ€™s office. The cops never saw Mr. Jackson at Answerdam, he never personally provided medicine to any government official, there was no evidence that the $100,000 check had been cashed or that it was even real â€“ other than physically blowing up a dummy copy to 6 feet to try to sway the jury.
A key to Mr. Jacksonâ€™s defense was that 20 of the collective members had been labeled as a â€˜growerâ€™ on their collective application, thus successfully answering the ever present patient to plants issue often referred to as the closed loop theory.Â The discredited closed loop theory of the Health and Safety code 11362.5, under which it is presumed that patients can only legally get medical cannabis by growing it themselves, is another example of the San Diego District Attorneyâ€™s flagrant misinterpretation of the law.
Mr. Jacksonâ€™s case was not just about medical cannabis. Mr. Jackson was found guilty of possession of a few pills of ecstasy and Xanax which were at his house when it was raided in August 2008. These facts further underscore the scope of this medical cannabis victory since any future medical cannabis collective providerâ€™s case would rarely have these damaging facts (i.e. check for $100,000 and illegal drugs). The jury took just a couple hours to come back with its unanimous decision.
The question now is â€“ whatâ€™s next?
For Mr. Jackson his focus is back on helping the communityâ€™s sick people and fighting the continuing persecution by the government. His court ordeal continues in January, as he is the only person who was charged in State Court from the 9-9-09 raids. San Diego will be forever in debt to Mr. Jackson, but this hero can never be fully compensated for what he has endured.
For Chris Lindberg and Bonnie Dumanis, is it back to their reign of terror on the sick and dying people of San Diego? Or with the District Attorneyâ€™s re-election in June, will her office learn from their mistakes of undermining society by not respecting the law and the will of the people? If they cannot, then one can only hope Dumanis and her cronies are paid back with a similar energy.