Drug Law

San Diego Medical Marijuana Provider Denied a Defense in Federal Court

| by ASA
SAN DIEGO, CA -- U.S. District Court Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz denied a defense today for James Stacy, a San Diego-area medical marijuana provider raided in September 2009 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Stacy was raided by the DEA a month before the Justice Department issued a new policy on medical marijuana in October, deemphasizing federal enforcement in medical marijuana states. Despite the new policy, the Obama Administration is continuing its prosecution against Stacy, who will be tried on August 30th as the first such trial under under the new DOJ policy.

"It's unconscionable for the federal government to continue prosecuting these cases and ruining people's lives," said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, the leading medical marijuana advocacy group in the U.S. "It's far worse to then deny the accused a defense in federal court, all but guaranteeing a conviction in spite of the defendant's compliance with state law." Because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the federal government can effectively exclude any evidence of medical use or compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

The denial of Stacy's medical marijuana defense in federal court has attracted the attention of some Members of Congress who are working to end this unfair practice. "Despite a new Justice Department policy on medical marijuana enforcement, James Stacy was still denied a defense in federal court," said Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA), author of HR3939, the Truth in Trials Act, legislation that would allow defendants like Stacy to use evidence of state law compliance in federal court. "The Truth in Trials Act would correct this aberration of justice and ensure that no one else will needlessly face years in prison without the means to defend themselves."

Eugene Davidovich, head of the San Diego chapter of ASA and another provider who was raided last September in the multi-agency operation said that, "If the federal government's going to obstruct evidence that would exonerate Stacy and others like him, then these cases should be tried in state court where medical marijuana can be used as a defense." Davidovich was tried and acquitted by jury in state court, indicating that authorities do not have sufficient evidence to gain convictions. This has not deterred local officials such as San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to authorize aggressive SWAT-style multi-agency raids like those that happened at three dispensaries last Friday, resulting in the arrest of 12 people.

The Stacy trial and recent DEA raids come as the City and County of San Diego are both deliberating local regulations on distribution of medical marijuana. Advocates argue that federal actions in collaboration with local law enforcement aim to undermine efforts to regulate the same activity that's being criminalized. San Diego has historically been hostile to medical marijuana, filing a lawsuit against local advocates and the State of California to avoid implementing the state-mandated ID card system and conducting more than 50 DEA raids during the Bush Administration. Yet, patients and advocates have been supported by two San Diego Grand Juries that have issued strong recommendations to fully implement state law at the local level.

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"Stacy's prosecution and denial of a defense underscores the importance of developing a comprehensive federal policy on medical marijuana, which will also allow states to care for the health and welfare of their people without unnecessary federal interference," continued Woodson. "It's not the purview of the federal government to enforce local or state laws."

Further Information:
Ruling by federal judge denying Stacy's defense: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Stacy_Ruling.pdf
October 2009 Justice Department policy directive on medical marijuana: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192