The month of September has eternally been etched into memories of medical marijuana patients in San Diego.
September 9th, marks the second anniversary of District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis’ Operation Green Rx raids; the largest one day swat style assault against medical marijuana access in San Diego County’s history.
In the early hours of Wednesday, September 9, 2009, Dumanis’ underlings, in collaboration with local DEA agents all part of the County’s cross-jurisdictional Narcotic Task Force (NTF), were set loose on the San Diego patient community.
Under the guise of “cracking down on illegal drug dealers,” that morning, federal and local law enforcement descended on over twenty dispensaries in the County. NTF agents seized medicine, money, patient records, and anything else they could get their hands on.
When the dust settled, it was discovered that only fourteen of the twenty plus locations raided had signed search warrants issued against them. The rest were intimidated into letting the NTF teams in without any paperwork. The operation was designed to instill fear and chaos into the patient community and to achieve a single goal; outright eradication of access to medical marijuana in the County.
It was also later discovered that detectives involved in the raids possessed medical marijuana cards themselves. All were obtained under aliases and by falsifying medical conditions by which they duped local doctors into issuing recommendations.
Detectives joined dispensaries as members and began regularly purchasing medicine from them prior to the raids. This allowed them to identify key management personnel as well as to understand the layout of the facilities in preparation for the day of raids.
Although dozens of sick and dying patients were arrested on 9/9/9, Dumanis’ office ended up filing charges against only small handful. Jovan Jackson, the director of Answerdam was among the few charged in State court. James Stacy director of Movement in Action, along with a few others were tossed over to the US Attorney’s office for federal prosecution.
In Stacy’s case, the federal charges carried with them a threat of life in prison. After a year of fighting to be allowed to bring up the words “medical marijuana” at trial, Stacy succeeded.
With the community’s full support and great legal representation by federal public defenders, the Federal Judge agreed Stacy was in full compliance with state law. Although an official medical marijuana defense was not the Judge agreed there was no way to keep the mention of medical marijuana and Stacy’s compliance with state law out of trial which potentially could have resulted in a federal acquittal, mistrial, or outright jury nullification.
In order to avoid further embarrassment the day before trial was to start, the US Attorney’s office made Stacy an unprecedented offer. They guaranteed no jail time and agreed to drop all charges if Stacy pled guilty to one count of cultivation.
Overnight, Stacy went from facing the possibility of life in federal prison, to three years probation with no jail time. Such an unprecedented offer was impossible to refuse and was a clear sign of the US Attorney acknowledging the sheer failure of the raids on legitimate patients.
Although the US Attorney technically got a conviction in that case, their offer paved the way for all dispensary operators in compliance with state laws who are charged in Federal court to either take their case to trial or demand the ‘Stacy Deal’.
In Jackson’s case, the raid on September 9th was the second time his facility had been hit in less than a year by Dumanis’ office. The day before the second raid, on September 8, while attending a routine court hearing for charges related to the first raid, Jackson was suddenly and without explanation taken into custody.
With Jackson in solitary confinement, Answerdam was raided for a second time on September 9th and a new case with a second set of identical charges was filed by Dumanis’ office.
When Jackson’s first case went to trial, it lasted almost three weeks. Having been assigned a fair Judge, twelve jurors examined all the facts of the case and carefully considered them against the State’s complete medical marijuana law. As a result, they quickly and unanimously found Jackson in compliance and not guilty of all the marijuana related charges.
In Jackson’s second trial however, Dumanis managed to hand pick Judge Howard Shore, a former prosecutor and traditional prohibitionist who blocked Jackson from using the medical marijuana defense in state court. This time, the jury only saw a redacted version of the laws which specifically excluded the language about collectives and cooperatives, the very language which jurors from the first case relied on in finding Jackson not guilty.
Having been denied knowledge of the previous trial and unable to apply the medical marijuana defense, jurors in the second trial were forced to convict him. Jackson’s second case is currently under appeal by Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group.
Two years later and without question, Operation Green Rx has been an utter failure and colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Aside from Stacy and Jackson, the vast majority of the patients raided on 9/9/9 have not been charged, prosecuted, or even summoned for a court appearance. All the money, cannabis, and other personal property seized that day has not been returned, and those patients who attempted to get their property back through the courts, were told by Dumanis’ office that felony charges would be filed if they tried.
After realizing that her eradication campaign failed, instead of working with patients to find common ground, Dumanis renamed the operation from ‘Green Rx’ to ‘Green Dope’ to better match her rhetoric of “going after drug dealers” and in the meantime, instructed the NTF Raid Teams to keep their focus on individual patients cultivating medicine rather than mass raids, and target especially those contributing their excess to the dispensaries.
Stemming from raids and investigations conducted by Dumanis’ office post Green Rx and in connection with the ‘new and improved ‘Operation Green Dope’, several cases are already making their way to trial.
Dumanis recently announced her candidacy for the City of San Diego’s 2012 Mayoral race. If elected she would become Mayor of the largest jurisdiction in the County and a City which over 180 dispensaries as well as over 50,000 medical marijuana patients call home.
In recent statements in response to media inquiries about her attacks on patients, Dumanis continues to dupe voters, still publicly claiming to support medical marijuana and justifying her incessant attacks on access as fighting “nothing but illegal drug dealers”.
Patients, caregivers, advocates and concerned citizens, are committed to fight Dumanis’ bias driven war and will not rest until the she is held accountable and the public is made aware of her track record on this issue.
As a direct result of Dumanis’ actions, September 9th, will always be remembered as a dark day in San Diego’s medical marijuana history and one that will continue to serve as a clear example of the failed war on medical marijuana patients.
Contact Eugene Davidovich at firstname.lastname@example.org