Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

March 11, 2010
San Diego case focuses debate on legality of medical pot sales

Now that a Sacramento jury has rendered a felony conviction in a criminal case that raised questions over reasonable personal use for medical pot, a major test stirs in San Diego over whether marijuana collectives are illegal sales operations.

Undercover police officers with physicians' recommendations for medicinal weed targeted Donna Lambert, a 49-year-old cancer survivor who ran a marijuana network that provided home deliveries to medical users.

Now Lambert, who operated "The Women's Health Cooperative," is due to go on trial April 13 on seven felony counts, including illegal sales of marijuana.

She is a major focus of a legal push by the San Diego County district attorney's office. It argues that medical marijuana dispensaries and other patient collectives have no right to sell their product.

"The model doesn't comport with the law," said Deputy District Attorney Steve Walter. "It is using the medical marijuana law to justify a lot of people getting high. All they're doing is paying their dues and buying marijuana."

Lambert has become a high-profile activist, celebrated by anti-drug war groups including the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana laws.

"This is very much a political issue in San Diego," said Marl Felsen, a NORML attorney representing Lambert. "There have been very targeted efforts to drive medical marijuana out of San Diego."

Lambert's trial is the second major pot case to come up in San Diego. In December, a jury acquitted Navy veteran Jovan Jackson of possession and sales of marijuana for operating a dispensary called Answerdam Alternative Care.

Walter said similar prosecutions will continue.

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