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Friday, January 20, 2012
The court granted the City of Long Beach’s petition for review in the Pack case, which has caused cities statewide to question their ability to regulate medical marijuana collectives. The Second Appellate District, Div. 3, ruled several months ago that parts of the Long Beach 5.87 ordinance, regulating medical marijuana collectives within the city, were federally prohibited.
Pack’s attorney, Matthew Pappas also filed an emergency application for a temporary order prohibiting the City of Long Beach from banning collectives while the case is pending with the California Supreme Court. The court denied this request, which leaves the city of Long Beach in flux as the Pack case is being determined. According to Joe Elford, Chief Counsel for Americans for Safe Access, the Pack ruling contradicts three other Appellate Court decisions that have rejected Federal Preemption. The California Supreme Court’s determination can take months and sometimes up to a year before a decision is rendered.
According to Bob Selan, Esq., CEO of Kush Magazine, the California Supreme Court has recognized that these states’ rights issues are at the forefront of the safe access provisions that were inherent in Proposition 215 voted into law by Californians in 1996. The laws which were further codified in SB420 in 2003 by the California Legislature, have been the subject of several controversial lawsuits pitting California medical marijuana laws against Federal Prohibition.
The ACLU has also filed an amicus curie brief requesting that the opinion of the Second Appellate District be depublished.
Last night the Long Beach City Council postponed voting on a ban until its February 14th meeting (see video). Long Beach City Attorney Robert Shannon is urging the City Council to enact a ban while the case is pending since the city currently has no law to regulate the collectives in the city.
The California Supreme Court also agreed to hear the Riverside case involving G3 Holistic in Upland, California. This case involved shutting down G3 due to the City of Upland’s outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries through their zoning code. G3 was shut down, sued the city and the Superior Court upheld the city’s zoning code. On Appeal, the Appellate court granted G3 an injunction to remain open. When the city prevailed on appeal in November, 2011, G3 was again shut down. In December, G3 appealed to the California Supreme Court which was granted a review today.
This comes at a time when cities and counties are scrambling to push forward bans of any medical cannabis related businesses in their jurisdictions.
The medical marijuana community applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to hear both cases, and hopefully, this will finally give cities in California the right to regulate medical marijuana in their communities, since many cities have chosen to ban or refuse to regulate medical marijuana because it’s federally illegal.
Source: KUSH Magazine
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Long Beach Superior Court Judge Charles Sheldon voluntarily removed himself from the case of Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron, the owners and operators of a trio of medical marijuana collectives who were convicted of illegal drug sales last month.
In a stunning revelation that drew exclamations from many in the courtroom, Sheldon admitted he sent a "complimentary letter" to Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano before the matter was finished.
"I don't know what I was thinking," Sheldon said, adding that he meant what he said in the missive, which was dated Jan. 5, but it was inappropriate to send while the case was still active.
His recusal drew raucous applause, cheers and shouts from a courtroom brimming with about 50 medical marijuana advocates who have rallied inside and outside the Long Beach courthouse throughout Grumbine and Byron's trial.
Defense Attorney Christopher Glew said outside court that the letter congratulated the prosecutor on a job well done and showed the judge's clear bias in case.
"I've never seen anything like it," Glew said. "But it was obvious from the start that Judge Sheldon was biased ... he said from the very beginning there are no legal sales of marijuana of any kind."
Grumbine and Byron were convicted Dec. 21 -- on 13 felony counts including illegal sales of narcotics, grand theft, and filing false tax returns -- following a roughly three week trial.
Supporters of the defendants insist the charges are nothing more than an attack by zealous police and prosecutors in violation of the state's medical marijuana law and have accused authorities of fabricating evidence.
Castano insisted in her opening statements to the jury the case was about two men using the sick and infirm as a shield for illegal drug deals.
"This case is not about whether people have the right to medical marijuana," Castano told the jury at the start of the trial last month. "This case is about two wolves in sheeps' clothing. It's about two men who were out to line their pockets ... with millions of dollars."
Grumbine and Byron were arrested in December of 2009 after police raided the three locations, two in Long Beach and one in Garden Grove.
The legal wrangling began long before the trial, with numerous motions heard as both sides sought to block some witnesses and evidence.
The district attorney and defendants' attorneys disagreed from the start over whether a medical marijuana defense could be presented. Initially, Sheldon ruled no such a defense would be allowed, said supporter Cheri Sicard.
Glew and co-defense Attorney Allison Margolin challenged Sheldon's ruling in a higher court and was awarded a judgement that required the lower court to allow the medical marijuana defense, Sicard said.
Nonetheless, police and prosecutors insisted the defendants used the collectives as profit-driven drug dealing operations run like stores with frequent flier cards, specials and discounts offered inside the businesses.
The defendants, Castano said, tried to hide the businesses by using fictitious business names. She also said the accused stole electricity from neighboring businesses to hide the large amount of power needed to grow the plants.
Bills were paid by money order to eliminate paper trials, the prosecutor noted. The defendants, she said, under-reported their sales tax for two years, pocketing more than $2 million.
Though Sheldon has recused himself from the case, the convictions still stand. However Glew and Margolin said they are preparing motions for a new trial, which will be heard in a new court, by Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, on April 3.
The motions will include arguments that Sheldon's bias denied their clients a chance at a fair trial and will also cite juror misconduct, Glew said, referring to one jurors revelation post conviction that the group used the Internet to look up the definition of marijuana collectives even though they were instructed by the court that they could not use any outside source of information while deliberating the case.
Even the appointment of the new judge looked as though it was going to be a tough fight Wednesday morning, as Glew and Margolin told Long Beach Superior Court Supervising Judge James Otto they opposed the case being transferred to Comparet-Cassani.
Moments later, however, they withdrew their challenge of the venue.
Outside the courtroom, Glew explained that though he is concerned about Comparet-Cassani's strict ruling record the only other options left at the Long Beach Court would prove even more unfavorable to the defense's case.
"We don't have a lot of options for a fair trial in Long Beach," Glew said.