Pubdate: Sat, 14 Aug 2010
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Dana Littlefield


Jovan Jackson has been cutting men's hair since he was a teenager. But
a few years back, he decided to take a sharp detour from the barber
trade and try a different vocation.

A medical marijuana patient himself, he joined with a small group of
others to start a marijuana collective called Answerdam Alternative
Care. He served as manager. It was a legal venture, he believed, made
possible under California law.

But for Jackson, it was a decision that ultimately landed him in

For the second time in less than a year, Jackson, 32, is headed to
trial on charges of illegally possessing and selling marijuana. The
charges stem from a raid at the Kearny Mesa dispensary in September.
In December, he was acquitted of similar charges related to an earlier
raid on the same property.

Pretrial motions are expected to begin this week in San Diego Superior

News of the impending trial is causing Jackson and medical marijuana
advocates to once again question why the district attorney would
bother to prosecute this case and others like it, in light of previous

In March, just a few months after the Jackson verdict, another
dispensary operator, Eugene Davidovich, was acquitted of drug
possession and sales charges. Not surprisingly, Davidovich remains a
vocal critic of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the "fierce
fight" he claims she is waging on medical marijuana patients.

"One would think that after two trials, hundreds of thousands of
taxpayers' dollars wasted and her reputation damaged, that Ms. Dumanis
would reconsider her approach," Davidovich wrote in a recent e-mail
sent to the news media. "Or at the least create a guideline for
patients to follow and avoid prosecution when they are following the

Dumanis, who was on vacation last week, was not available for comment.
But others in her office maintain that county prosecutors are not
targeting medical marijuana patients but are prosecuting for-profit
dealers whom California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and Medical
Marijuana Program Act of 2003 were never intended to protect.

"We absolutely respect the will of the voters," said Chris Lindberg,
the deputy district attorney who's handling the Jackson case.

Lindberg said he believes the evidence is sufficient in Jackson's case
to prove the charges to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jackson, who now works in a Lemon Grove barbershop, maintains his

"I had always felt that everything I was doing was by the book," he
said, explaining that he was prescribed marijuana by a San Diego
doctor because of temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, a
condition that causes pain in the lower jaw.

The charges in Jackson's first trial stemmed from undercover buys made
by a detective in June and July of 2008. The dispensary also was
raided on Sept. 9, 2009, as part of a larger multiagency investigation
dubbed Operation Green Rx, which led to the second set of charges
filed against Jackson.

According to testimony from Jackson's first trial, patients who wanted
to obtain marijuana from the Answerdam collective were required to
show a doctor's recommendation and sign a membership agreement. An
undercover detective who obtained marijuana from the office on Convoy
Court signed the document with a false name.

Jackson's lawyer, Lance Rogers, has said part of the problem is the
vagueness of the law, which allows for patients to collectively grow
marijuana for medicinal purposes. Rogers has argued that member fees
could be used to aid cultivation.

Rogers also contends there are inherent problems when an investigation
involves "cross-sworn officers" who are charged with enforcing state
and federal law. Marijuana possession and use, even for medicinal
purposes, remains illegal under federal law.

"What happens when the laws are in direct conflict?" Rogers said.
"What is an officer to do?"

The state Attorney General's Office issued guidelines in 2008 on how
medical marijuana could be grown and distributed, but they are
interpreted and enforced differently around the state.

Jackson said his involvement with the now-defunct collective has cost
him friends, family, time and money since he helped start it in late
2007. And it still could cost the Navy veteran his freedom. He faces a
possible sentence of more than five years in prison if convicted.
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