By Terrie Best / San Diego Americans for Safe Access
Something outrageous is happening in our criminal justice system in San Diego. In a post-Proposition 64 world, after voters could not have sent a clearer message about acceptance of the cannabis industry, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is busy making enemies of some of the most effective leaders who have emerged.
Bonnie thumbs her nose at voters while nearly dancing toward a seat on the county board supervisors. Particularly shocking in this prosecution is the targeting of cannabis attorney, Jessica McElfresh who has represented several of the newly-licensed collectives under the city’s ordinance.
The Med-West case began with a raid in January 2016, company assets were seized, two arrests were made and later San Diego Police Detective Mark Carlson signed an affidavit to take Med-West President James Static’s personal finances, his wife’s and his college-age daughters’. The Slatics endured several civil court hearings, represented by The Institute for Justice which resulted in a judge’s order to return the family’s savings.
Days later search warrants were served on Jessica McElfresh’s office and home, a criminal complaint was circulated to the media and charges were filed.
In the time of its operation, Med-West staff had been in communication with the city, had a business, license, paid their taxes and provided benefits to their employees. Countless hours had been spent proving compliance and the raid and closure shocked the cannabis community.
If that isn’t enough to make one cringe, in the defendants’ first court appearance, June 15, the felony arraignment judge removed the 4th amendment rights from all but two of the six charged. The denial of this right could certainly lead to harassment, loss of income, humiliation, and an erosion of confidence in the entire cannabis legal counsel community.
It is difficult to pick out the most offensive thing about the victimization of Med-West and the subsequent charges.
For my attorney friends, it is the blatant stripping of legal representation from the industry in the prosecution of a cannabis attorney for representing her client.
For others, it is the vindictive and money-grubbing nature of the DA and her blatancy.
For me it’s the continued disregard for voters as Bonnie builds a legacy and a hefty bank account on the backs of suffering patients. All of it points to the police state we are headed toward as law enforcers continue to interpret laws in the most punitive way in order to seize the assets of property owning citizens.
The arraignment court date occurred last week amid a flurry of support. The defendants are very well represented, James Slatic has hired former DA, Paul Pfingst. Jessica McElFresh is represented by Eugene Iredale. The other four defendants also have counsel, none of whom are public defenders.
The prosecutor is Jorge DelPortillo. He has lost numerous cannabis cases, including People v Robert Orlosky which established case law after appeal. Head of Narcotics, Steve Walter was present at the arraignment. It remains to be seen whether Walters will assign another deputy DA given that the DA’s office is desperate to keep assets seized by narcotic officers.
The need for court support can not be overstated. The search warrants served on Jessica was frighteningly overbroad. The DA’s office has requested a forensic search of all of the San Diego attorney’s devices going back three years. Additionally, the investigators seized documents having nothing to do with the case from Jessica’s home. A motion to restrict the obvious fishing expedition into Jessica’s law practice and personal life will be heard on July 7th at 9am in Dept. 36 of the downtown Superior Court.
Please plan to attend.
**This article was originally posted at the OB Rag
Here’s the link to criminal charges.