State law compliant medical marijuana cases still being tried in federal court
SAN DIEGO --- A North San Diego County medical marijuana provider, James Stacy, whose Vista dispensary was raided on September 9, 2009, by a multi-agency narcotics task force, will be the first such case to go to trial after the Justice Department issued its enforcement policy in October 2009, a month after the raid. Stacy's trial date will be scheduled Wednesday during a hearing at which Stacy will argue he's entitled to admit evidence of state law compliance, something routinely denied federal defendants.
Stacy's dispensary, Movement in Action, was raided along with more than a dozen other San Diego County dispensaries as part of local-federal enforcement actions called, "Operation Endless Summer," which resulted in more than 30 arrests. Only Stacy, and one other medical marijuana dispensary operator Joseph Nunes, were charged federally as a result of the raids. Nunes has since pleaded guilty and was recently sentenced to a year in prison.
What: Federal hearing on whether dispensary operator James Stacy can use medical marijuana and state law as a defense at trial
When: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 10:30am
Where: Courtroom 15, U.S. District Court, 940 Front Street, San Diego, CA
"With a new enforcement policy on medical marijuana, the federal government should not be trying this case at all," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization. "At the very least, Mr. Stacy's case should be tried in state court where he's guaranteed a defense against his charges." Because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on medical marijuana, defendants are prevented from entering evidence of medical use or state law compliance in federal court.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before Congress last week and reaffirmed that the Obama Administration was not interested in using the Justice Department's "limited resources" to prosecute people who are in compliance with their state's medical marijuana laws. Stacy argues that he was in full compliance with state law, nevertheless he was federally charged with cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy to cultivate and sell marijuana, and possession of a firearm, which could result in more than 20 years in prison. The federal government has so far failed to show any evidence of state law violations and has blocked repeated attempts by Stacy's lawyer Kasha Kastillo to try the case in state court.
Another San Diego dispensary operator, Jovan Jackson, was arrested as a result of the raids in September and prosecuted by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in state court. Jackson was acquitted by a jury after a November 2009 trial on similar charges. More recently, the San Diego Board of Supervisors has taken note of the county's failure to gain convictions and has decided to regulate medical marijuana distribution in the unincorporated areas of the county. The City of San Diego City Council is similarly debating a dispensary ordinance. "The move to regulate local medical marijuana distribution is certainly a positive step for San Diego," continued Elford. "However, it begs the question of why Mr. Stacy is still being prosecuted in federal court."
Because of the government's continued efforts to prosecute medical marijuana patients despite a new Justice department enforcement policy, advocates are urging Members of Congress to pass HR 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants to use a medical or state law defense in federal court. The Truth in Trials Act currently has more than 30 Congressional cosponsors.