Pubdate: Sat, 17 Aug 2013
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Harold Kruger


A member of a Yuba County medical marijuana collective was acquitted 
on three felony drug charges, according to court records.

A jury found Eric L. Salerno not guilty on one count, and Yuba County 
Superior Court Judge Julia Scrogin threw out two others.

Salerno and another man were arrested in April 2011 as they tried to 
consummate a pot sale in a fast-food restaurant parking lot in 
Marysville. Then-Police Chief Wally Fullerton was one of the 
arresting officers.

"The significance of this case is it's really important for people to 
have safe access (to medical marijuana)," said Salerno's Los Angeles 
attorney, Michael Levinsohn. "People need to be able to get medical 
cannabis in a safe environment, so they don't have to be forced to do 
it in ways they are subjected to arrest."

He said the case's outcome created "quite a bit of buzz for a few 
days" in the medical marijuana community.

But District Attorney Pat McGrath said the Salerno prosecution "was a 
fairly straightforward marijuana case, except, of course, for the 
intricacies of the Medical Marijuana Act."

McGrath acknowledged that "despite rather heated passions that some 
advocates for medical marijuana have, there wasn't anything 
particularly noteworthy about this case."

Salerno and Stephen Devezin, a Southern California medical marijuana 
patient, were arrested as they stood behind a black SUV negotiating 
the transaction. Salerno was going to sell 13 4 pounds of pot to 
Devezin for about $3,000.

Salerno is a member of the Organic Roots Collective in Browns Valley, 
according to court papers filed by Levinsohn. Devezin intended to 
join the collective.

Devezin was charged with a felony drug count but pleaded no contest 
to a misdemeanor, court records said.

At a 2012 preliminary hearing, a Yuba County judge disallowed the 
medical marijuana defense. It was reinstated by the 3rd District 
Court of Appeal in Sacramento.

At last week's trial, Scrogin dismissed felony charges of marijuana 
sales and attempted sales against Salerno. A jury returned a 
not-guilty verdict on the remaining count, Levinsohn said.

"I do know that the DA's office in Yuba County was very kind of hot 
for (Salerno)," Levinsohn said. "They wanted to make an example out 
of him. They told me that. They wanted to make him an example of how 
not to behave. They don't approve of sale of medical cannabis in 
their county. They were going to make him Exhibit A."

According to McGrath, "I don't think Mr. Salerno was treated 
differently than others."

He said police found about $4,600 in cash at the scene, "so the fact 
he was prosecuted for a felony was warranted under those facts."

McGrath said the Legislature should provide guidance on how these 
cases should be handled.

"If we had some overall guidelines, then I think all of us, whether 
in law enforcement or somebody who is working in a collective or an 
individual user, I think all of us would feel a little better in 
terms of our relationship with each other," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom