By Jasen T. Davis
Day Three of major medical marijuana case goes to jury deliberation
Eight months ago Aaron Sandusky was running three medical cannabis cooperatives in the California cities of Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley. Under the umbrella of “G3 Holistic, Inc.,” the locations provided cannabis medicine for thousands of patients.
But the dispensary operator has spent the past three days fighting for his rights . . . and fighting the federal government’s crusade to outlaw what voter-approved state-sanctioned law allows. All while feeling frustrated that he can’t defend himself properly before U.S District Judge Percy Anderson in downtown Los Angeles.
Late Thursday evening, CULTURE Magazine learned, Sandusky’s trial went to jury deliberation but no verdict had yet been reached.
Sandusky’s trial—considered a significant one in the medical marijuana community because it will directly pit the federal government against someone operating in good faith under state-sanction medical marijuana—is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. Friday morning.
Defending the Rights
After President Obama won the presidency, Sandusky believed that he wouldn’t have to worry about getting raided by the federal government. Both the President and Attorney General Eric Holder repeatedly said that they would not interfere with state laws regarding medical cannabis and utilize federal resources to prosecute people working legitimately under such laws—such as California, Colorado, Michigan, Washington and other jurisdictions where compassionate legislation has been authorized by voters.
However, last June Sandusky, his brother and several other people involved in running the cooperatives were arrested and indicted on federal conspiracy charges including drug trafficking, conspiracy to manufacture and possession with intent to distribute.
If Sandusky is found guilty he faces from 10 years to life in prison for helping medical cannabis patients, despite the fact that state law (under California’s Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420) currently allows the use and distribution of medical cannabis in California.
While some of the other defendants reportedly have pleaded guilty and are seeking a plea bargain (which includes testifying against their former business partner), Sandusky has decided to fight the federal government in a court of law to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients, growers and providers across the country.
Many activists have been covering the trial and showing up as a sign of support including legalization advocate and cannabis gourmet cookbook writer Cheri Sicard, Joe Grumbine and others.
Contacted by CULTURE, Sandusky’s attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, but he was unable to comment on today’s proceedings because of a federal gag order. “The judge has ordered us to not discuss the case,” Diamond told CULTURE. “The jury is in currently in deliberation.”
Sandusky has stated that he kept operating his collectives because he believed that President Obama was going to keep his promise and not use the federal government to raid legally operating medical cannabis dispensaries.
In previous interviews with the media, Mr. Diamond has defended his client’s position, citing that on October 29, 2008 Deputy Attorney David Ogden issued a memorandum underlying the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to medical cannabis facilities legally operating under state law.
“It confirmed the federal government had no interest and would not prosecute in those states, including California, where the state had legalized such activity,” Diamond said.
Until the jury reaches its verdict, no one knows what the exact outcome will be. Regardless of the decision, this will be a landmark case for the medical cannabis movement. In the clash between the federal government and the medical marijuana community, it’ll come down to whose rights will prevail: A state’s ability to pass and uphold its voter-approved medical marijuana laws? Or the federal government’s efforts to persecute a plant and prosecute a people. Sandusky’s case specifically is one of several California MMJ cases that are under review by the state Supreme Court.
In an interview with reason.tv, Sandusky offered his motivation for fighting the feds in a trial that threatens his rights . . . and his future.
“If I have to go to jail for 20 years defending this, so be it,” Sandusky said back then. “This is a constitutional battle, and we’re going to defend our rights.”
Check back here later today for Day Four of Fighting the Feds: The Aaron Sandusky Trial