FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Marijuana Club’s Jeff Jones Jailed for Courthouse Leafletting

by ANN HARRISON

The director of California’s best-known medical marijuana club has announced that he will begin a hunger strike when he is imprisoned March 3 for leafleting outside a courthouse.

Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative (OCBC) director Jeff Jones, was sentenced to three months in prison for distributing pamphlets outside a Sacramento federal court where potential jurors were assembling for the trial of medical marijuana grower Bryan Epis.

If he follows through with his plan, Jones will be one of the first California medical marijuana activists to starve himself in an effort to draw attention to the conflict between state and federal laws governing medical cannabis.

”I am doing this to build solidarity, support and awareness,” said Jones. ”To further the education of the public and juries about problems with the federal law on this issue, and the damage it is causing in states that have already passed favorable laws.”

A thin, clean-cut man, Jones has pioneered community acceptance of medical marijuana since the passage of California’s Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215). The law permits patients to grow and consume medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. The city of Oakland, California passed a 1998 ordinance establishing a medical marijuana distribution system, and designated OCBC operators as officers of the city immune from prosecution.

That same year, the federal government filed a preliminary injunction to halt the OCBC from distributing medical cannabis. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2001 that the club could not dispense medical cannabis under ”medical necessity,” it did not consider larger constitutional issues. An appeals court is still deciding whether the City of Oakland has the power to offer the club legal immunity. Steph Sherer, director of the medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, notes that Jones and his club have frequently pushed the envelope and ”set an example for the implementation of Prop. 215 for the rest of the state.”

But Jones says he is now the target of selective prosecution. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski ignored a probation recommendation, and ordered Jones into federal custody on a misdemeanor charge of influencing a juror by writing.

During Jones’ sentencing hearing, his attorney Michael Bigelow attempted to explain to Judge Nowinski that Jones was among a group of activists who were distributing literature supporting Epis’ right to grow medical marijuana under Prop. 215.

But each time Bigelow spoke the words, “medical marijuana,” Nowinski cut him off, insisting that the issue was irrelevant to the primary concern of jury integrity.

”He was totally biased and politically motivated and didn’t allow my attorney to make a discussion or an argument,” said Jones ”The judge said ‘we are not going to talk about medical marijuana in here, this is not about that.’ But it is.”

Judge Nowinski’s exclusion of the medical marijuana issue mirrors the tactics of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer who presided over the recent trial of medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal. Rosenthal’s jurors later denounced Judge Breyer’s successful efforts to block discussion of medical marijuana during the trial, which jurors said resulted in an incomplete presentation of the facts.

The leafleting which took place during jury selection for Epis’ trial, was an attempt to present the very type of information Rosenthal’s jurors said they were denied. The leaflets asserted that Epis was growing medical cannabis under state law for a group of patients in Chico, California.

When U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. discovered that some of the potential jurors in the case had received the leaflets, he charged Epis with obstruction of justice. Judge Damrell then agreed with prosecutors that the entire panel of 42 potential jurors had been tainted, and dismissed all of them. When Jones arrived at the hearing for the obstruction of justice charge, he said court officials positioned the rejected jurors near the courtroom entrance where they identified him as the pamphleteer. He was arrested on June 24.

Judge Damrell convened a second panel of jurors who were not permitted to hear evidence that Epis was growing medical cannabis. Epis was convicted in July of federal marijuana cultivation charges, and is now serving a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison. His conviction is being appealed.

The obstruction of justice charge against Epis was later dropped. But federal prosecutors pursued their case against Jones. Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha Spangler issued a memorandum which acknowledged that there was other ”other activity occurring outside the courthouse” when Jones was leafleting. But the memorandum asserted that ”Mr. Jones’ conduct was egregious. He stood on the courthouse steps distributing pamphlets specifically targeting prospective jurors.”

Jones said he simply passed leaflets to people walking into the courthouse. ”I didn’t interrupt the court,” said Jones. ”I didn’t talk directly to people who were jurors.”

Jones told Judge Nowinski during a hearing in December, that had not even closely read the information he was handing out. But Jones plead guilty to the jury tampering misdemeanor in order to avoid a felony obstruction of justice charge. A report issued by the county probation department recommended that Jones be placed on probation and pay $3,924.93 in restitution charges to cover the cost of seating a new jury.

Bigelow objected to the restitution, arguing that Judge Damrell acted hastily in dismissing the entire jury pool. This argument evidently angered Judge Nowinski who upheld the restitution, and made an unsuccessful effort to take Jones into custody immediately.

Jones says he has filed an urgent request with a District Court Judge asking to be released on bond. He is also appealing his conviction with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on 1st Amendment and other grounds.

”This is David and Goliath,” says Jones who says he will surrender to U.S. Marshals in Sacramento, and then refuse food. ”I want to show how far a judge will go to undermine justice.”

ANN HARRISON is a freelance journalist, in the Bay Area. She can be reached at: ah@well.com

 

More articles by:
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Muller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OSFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail