The manager of a San Diego medical marijuana collective was acquitted Tuesday of possessing marijuana and selling the drug for profit.
The jury, however, convicted 31-year-old Jovan Jackson of possession of ecstasy and Xanax. Jackson cried when he heard the not guilty verdicts being read.
"I was very thankful," Jackson said outside court. "This has been a long road. It hasn't been easy. I felt like a lot of weight was on my shoulders."
Jackson's case was the first to go to trial in the wake of law enforcement raids in September which resulted in 31 arrests and the shutting down of 14 medical marijuana storefronts in San Diego.
Jurors who spoke to reporters after the verdicts said the laws on medical marijuana sales from collectives were vague, prompting them to find the defendant innocent.
"On a personal level, if you're going to hold somebody to a law, you have to define that law," said juror Perry Wright.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg said he was disappointed with the verdicts, but applauded jurors for the job they did.
"They were interested in deciding whether or not these actions violated the law," the prosecutor said.
Lindberg told jurors in his opening statement that the case against Jackson was not about medical marijuana.
"This case is about making money, plain and simple," the prosecutor said.
During the raids in June and July of 2008, officers found credit card receipts for more than $150,000 in sales at Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, Lindberg said.
The prosecutor said the case was not about marijuana patients but was "about profits."
"He (Jackson) was running a business," the prosecutor told the jury.
Lindberg said an undercover San Diego police officer was able to get a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor and then bought marijuana on two occasions at Answerdam, which, according to its records, had 1,649 members.
The prosecutor said the undercover officer paid $20 to join Answerdam and immediately was able to buy the drugs.
A raid on Aug. 5, 2008, at Answerdam turned up 5-to-6 pounds of marijuana and a receipt in Jackson's name for a $100,000 transaction to an investment company, Lindberg said.
Agents also searched the defendant's home and found some marijuana by his bed and 17 ecstasy tablets, according to the prosecutor.
Lindberg told the jury that Jackson took advantage of a law that allows medical marijuana patients to legally buy the drug from a collective that grows marijuana to meet those needs.
But defense attorney K. Lance Rogers told the jury in his opening statement that the undercover officer signed up for the medical marijuana collective under false pretenses, using a fake name and getting a false medical recommendation.
Rogers said Lindberg wouldn't be able to prove that Jackson "stood out" from other members in the collective.
"This is about Answerdam. This is not about Mr. Jackson," the defense attorney told the jury.
Jackson, an eight-year Navy veteran, faces similar drug charges from an undercover buy at the collective this year. He faces more than three years in prison when sentenced next week on current charges, but will probably get probation, Lindberg said.
The number of medical marijuana dispensaries rose recently, in the wake of San Diego County's failed attempt to overturn the state's 1996 medical marijuana law and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder's directive that federal agents will only target medical marijuana storefronts when operators violate both state and federal laws.
December 1, 2009