One public defender said bitterly that the hearing was like a ‘circus.’ And more potential medicalmarijuana cases are funneling into the Sonoma County court system in 2012, including one involving members of the Emerald Empire Gardens, a collective out of Santa Rosa, who are being called into court this month on charges of cultivation and intent to sell. “We have 27 lawyers, and every one of them has got a marijuana case, and I’m conﬁdent that they have perhaps dozens each,” says Kathleen Pozzi, chief public defender of Sonoma County. Pozzi will not comment speciﬁcally on the California Patient Provider Association since it’s pending, but she says that there are a large number of multiple marijuana cases in the system right now. She adds that critics shouldn’t quickly assume that all
defendants are people who have been operating within the law. “Now, the prosecution’s theory is, generally speaking, that this is an organization that is growing medical marijuana not for medicinal purposes, but for proﬁt,” says Pozzi. “If it wasn’t their theory, they wouldn’t ﬁle charges.” Mary Pat Jacobs, a spokesperson for the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana, says that more work needs to be done to prevent the cases from entering an overloaded and budget-strapped justice system. Last year, the public defender’s office saw its budget slashed by 8 percent, even as 2009–2010 caseloads rose to 115,000, up from 71,000 10 years ago. Jacobs says the problem is further compounded when defendants are dragged across court systems for years. Most of those cases never make it to jury trial. “The reason we’re not seeing any cases actually litigated in the people’s court or going to jury trial is that it’s dragged out for so long, the money is unavailable anymore,” she explains. “Their lives are on hold, so ultimately they plead guilty to a misdemeanor.”
Green War Nearly all medical-marijuana advocates agree that the tumult surrounding collectives’ rights to cultivate, transport and distribute cannabis has been exacerbated under the Obama administration. Despite recent Gallup Polls revealing a record-high 50 percent support for medical marijuana in the United States, and President Obama’s own 2008 campaign promise to support state’s rights for medical marijuana, this administration has been declared the worst ever when it comes to actual support, according to groups like the Marijuana Policy Project. Obama recently told Rolling Stone magazine, “I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana—and the reason is, because it’s against federal law.” He then cited ) 22 the “murky” area where
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them because they haven’t dotted i’s and crossed t’s.” Cases are then referred to the court system, where they might go on for months or even years, depending on whether the defendants accept deals offered to them by the district attorney’s office. In February, charges were dropped for about half of the defendants in the California Patient Provider Association case—mainly trimmers who were hired hands—but for those known as the “Windsor 16,” the case has entered its seventh month. Only about four or ﬁve have private attorneys; most requested courtappointed legal representation. An April 5 arraignment saw almost all of the defendants, their respective lawyers, bailiffs and other court employees packed into a Sonoma County superior court room. One public defender, who declined to be identiﬁed, said bitterly that the hearing was like a “circus.”
The crackdown on medical marijuana hits dispensaries and growers. Should patients fear the worst? LEILANI CLARK REPORTS p19 Chiles on the St...