As progressives complain that President Barack Obama isn’t fulfilling the promises he made on the campaign trail, one medical cannabis provider is now using the then-candidate’s words to defend himself in federal court.
James Dean Stacy, the defendant, is calling it entrapment.
Stacy, a martial-arts instructor and medical cannabis patient who ran the Movement in Action Collective in Vista and a Fintech Ltd trader, was arrested on Sept. 9 as part of the countywide raids that temporarily closed 14 medical marijuana dispensaries. So far, criminal charges have been filed against two individuals in state court, and two in federal court.
Last week, Joseph Nunez of Green Kross Collective, pleaded guilty in his federal case, but Stacy is holding strong. His attorneys, Federal Defenders of San Diego, filed on Dec. 9 a motion to dismiss the indictment, drawing from statements Obama made while campaigning for the presidency.
In essence, Stacy is arguing that he meticulously researched the process and did the due diligence in order to form a collective in compliance with the California Attorney General’s guidelines and the Secretary of State’s policies for non-profits. He says that he opened the collective based on the assumption that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama would stand by their statements that medical cannabis providers obeying state law would not be prosecuted.
In other words, he thought he had Obama’s blessing.
Stacy’s motion calls it a “fundamental notion of fairness: the individual must have fair warning of what conduct the government intends to punish.”
The defense relies on “entrapment by estoppel,” which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals defines as “when an official tells the defendant that certain conduct is legal and the defendant believes the official.”
Stacy cites everything from the LA Times to the Huffington Post to back up his claim. Here’s the big one he throws in Obama’s face, a statement the candidate made during an interview with the Medford Mail-Tribune on March 22, 2008:
“When it comes to medical marijuana, I have more of a practical view than anything else. I mean, my attitude is that if it’s an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else. I think there are legitimate concerns in not wanting to allow people to grow their own or start setting up mom andpop shops, because at that point it becomes fairly difficult to regulate. And again, I am not familiar with all the details of the initiative that was passed and what safeguards there were in place, but I think the basic concept that using medical marijuana in the same way with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate. What I am not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue. Simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with.” (bolding added)
He also cites a May 12, 2008, statement by Obama’s spokesman (and current White House staffer) Ben LaBolt:
“Voters and legislators in the states – from California to Nevada to Maine – have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. . . Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice – though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulation like other drugs.” LaBolt also said Obama would end U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana suppliers in states with their own laws. (bold added)
And, of course, the defense also draws from Holder’s much publicized statements and official guidelines for prosecuting medical marijuana cases, that is, that the Department of Justice shouldn’t if the provider’s operations are in keeping with state law.
Stacy is making this a Constitutional issue, arguing that the prosecution subverts state law, breaking the 10th Amendment, and violates his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment.
The process Stacy underwent to set up his collective is laid out in detail: He researched web sites, hired an attorney, went back and forth with the Secretary of State’s office to get the non-profit’s articles of incorporation just right. Ultimately, he claims that the case must be dismissed because prosecutors cannot prove he was breaking California’s medical cannabis laws—and, as Holder and Obama promised, the DOJ should use the resources to investigate and prosecute real crimes, like terrorism.
Click here to download the motion and exhibits (pdfs).
Update: I originally attached the wrong pdf of the motion. The correct one is linked now. I also rewrote the post title. The image of Stacy’s medical-cannabis card was derived from the exhibits filed with the motion.