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Encinitas man faces prison, felonies for $50 pot sale

Activists rally to aid of Brandon Smith against charges

ENCINITAS — Is $50 worth of marijuana worth a young man’s future?

This is the question that medical marijuana activists are asking as they rally around an Encinitas man, Brandon Michael Smith, 26, whose attorney says faces seven years in state prison — and other life-altering implications — in the wake of a September 2014 arrest for allegedly trying to sell about $50 worth of marijuana in a parking lot of an Encinitas shopping center.

A second man involved in the transaction was cited for possession of under an ounce of marijuana.

Smith faces trial on the charges June 22.

His attorney, Michael Cindrich, said that he believes Smith was operating within his rights as a medical marijuana patient and collective member.

All current plea discussions have involved Smith still facing felony charges, which would hinder his ability to finish college, as he would be ineligible for federal and state financial aid, Cindrich said.

Cindrich says the two charges — sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell — carry a maximum of seven years. A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office, however, said Smith faces a maximum of four years.

“It’s not just the jail time,” Cindrich said. “It’s the labeling as a felon; this would ruin his life. He will be forced to withdraw from school, he won’t be able to get his degree, and it will be pretty much a downward spiral from there.

“Without a degree, it becomes that much more difficult to get a job, especially if you are a felon,” Cindrich said. “Here you have someone who wants to go to school, and graduate, and get a job and work hard and contribute to society, but he is in a position where he may be prevented from doing that.”

The District Attorney’s Office declined comment on the details of the case.

Cindrich said Smith was pulled over after sheriff’s deputies observed him allegedly selling marijuana to another man. During the traffic stop, they reportedly found five grams of marijuana on his person, which is roughly valued at $50.

Cindrich said that Smith was abiding by all state laws that regulate the use of medical marijuana and the formation of collection — laws that Cindrich acknowledged can be interpreted very liberally.

“Essentially, anyone with $40 and a heartbeat can get a doctor’s recommendation for a medical marijuana card and then can legally purchase, grow, distribute and use medical cannabis,” Cindrich said, noting that all it takes to get a medical marijuana card in California is a doctor’s oral recommendation and that a group of patients can purchase and grow marijuana as loosely-formed collectives.

“The District Attorney’s office is fighting a battle that history will ultimately reveal is a lost one. All across the country we are seeing the movement toward full legalization.”

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic, and illegal under federal law. But voters in several states, including California, have voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, and four states — Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Colorado — have legalized recreational use.

However, a number of municipalities — including Encinitas — have voted against medical marijuana storefronts.

Encinitas voters in November 2014 voted against Measure F, which would have paved the way for the city to regulate so-called “pot shops.”

Smith’s case has become a rallying point for a number of medical-marijuana activists and groups critical of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an organization of which Cindrich is the executive director of the local chapter, The Human Solution International, Americans for Safe Access and the California Cannabis Coalition have all held rallies in support of Smith.

A Facebook page for one such group, Citizens for the Recall of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, has urged supporters to attend Smith’s court dates and rallies on his behalf.

“The outpouring of support from the community has been tremendous,” Cindrich said. “A number of people are puzzled and upset by the District Attorney’s stance on this and other cases.”

Cindrich said there hasn’t been any push back from anti-marijuana activists against Smith.

One anti-marijuana activist, Scott Chipman, who fought actively against Measure F and is involved with several other national anti-marijuana legislation drives, said he was surprised that the District Attorney’s office would pursue Smith’s case so vigorously, considering the relatively small amount of marijuana involved.

“As far as I am concerned, the real culprits are not the people selling a little bit here and there on the streets, the real culprits are the stores that sell it by the pound,” Chipman said. “These are drug dealers behind glass doors selling large quantities of weed, and that is where enforcement should be focused.

“I would characterize this (Smith’s case) as a very rare case,” Chipman said.

Smith will be back in court Friday for a pre-trial conference, at which time plea arrangements could again be discussed between the two sides.

This story has been updated since its original posting.

7 comments

Brian Kelly May 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

Even The President of the United States has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record.Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

Brian Kelly May 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

People who use marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make us out to be. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

Has a marijuana user ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force us not to either.

Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon all of us with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

John May 14, 2015 at 9:29 am

So how much more money will the citizens of this county allow the D.A. to waste in her personal war on pot? Because that’s exactly what it is. A waste of our money in support of her personal adgenda as she seeks yet higher public office. In reality using taxpayer funds for personal gain. And silly me, it was my understanding that it was the D.A.’s job to support the laws that the people she serves have mandated instead of persueing those which would bring her to attention for personal gain while wasting money that could be used to fight REAL crime. Another self-serving, blowhard in govt. Just what we need.

Ken May 18, 2015 at 7:36 pm

I suspect there is far more to this story if the reporter had done his research since the sale and possession of marijuana in California is not a felony or even a misdemeanor.

I also have to wonder what was 26 year old doing in a parking lot selling pot that he says he needs as medicine?

California voters has already turned down one legalization measure at the ballot box in 2012, and in 2014 pot people fought among themselves so much they couldn’t collect enough signatures to even have an initiative on the ballot, which is exactly what is happening again for 2016.

Meanwhile Colorado is putting a initiative on their ballot to reverse their legalization it has been such a huge problem for them – increase marijuana use for youth, higher youth addiction rates, increase school drop out rate, and increased young male homelessness.

Aaron Burgin May 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

Hey Ken,

Thanks for the comments. I thought there had to be more to it as we, until I saw the file. It is pretty much as straightforward as it gets. The charges that he faced in the Health and Safety Code were not simple possession, which, you are correct, does only come with local jail time. Section 11360 exposes those found guilty to a prison term of two, three or four years.

You are also right about the pushback against marijuana collectives and legalization. There are several states where this will be an interesting litmus test in 2016.

Aaron Burgin May 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

*as well*

Sol August 4, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Except, there is no scientific evidence of a condition known as “marijuana addiction.” Your other claims are equally propaganda foisted on the public outside of Colorado by the pro-vice industries, alcohol and tobacco, who don’t cotton to losing customers, young or old, to less harmful personal recreations. Next you’ll be claiming shooting deaths are associated with marijuana use, to get gun manufacturers and careless sellers off the hook. Gad.

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