CA NORML News
Los Angeles, March 18th. In a milestone victory for patients in Southern California, a Los Angeles jury acquitted Sister Somayah Kambui, who had been charged with growing medical marijuana in her backyard.
Somayah who also runs the Crescent Alliance Self-Help for Sickle Cell patients' group, used the marijuana to relieve chronic pain from sickle cell anemia. She was acquitted on five separate cannabis-related charges despite evidence that she had substantially more marijuana than necessary for her own personal use.
Police claimed that her garden had 200 pounds "wet" weight of marijuana, including stems and root balls. Defense witness Chris Conrad estimated the gardens true yield at 11 to 25 pounds of usable bud and leaf. In addition, Somayah had six pounds of processed leaf and a quantity of hemp seed and oil, which the prosecution tried to charge as hash oil. Prosecutors charged that she had too much for personal use and was distributing from her home .
Somayah took full responsibility for the garden. She testified that she had been too sick to act as an official Prop. 215 caregiver for other patients in the last year, though some witnesses indicated that she had shared her medicine with them in the past. She said that the Crescent Alliance only used her home as a meeting-place.
Somayah spent 60 days in jail awaiting trial. She complained that she had not been able to harvest her crops for several years in a row because repeated police raids had wiped out her gardens. In 1998, she was arrested on cultivation charges, but was released and had her plants returned under Prop. 215. She also has two previous "strikes" for weapons charges from the 1970s, when she was active in the Black Panthers. However, prosecutors suggested they would not press for a Third Strike sentence, given the non-violent nature of her offense.
Somayah said she felt "vindicated" by the verdict, the first Prop 215 cultivation acquittal in the nation's largest county. Her court-appointed attorney, Robert Welbourn, expressed hope that police would finally leave her alone.
Assistant District Attorney Sean Carney called the verdict "jury nullification," saying that the evidence was clear that she had violated the law.
Somayah vigorously protested the
L.A. Times' account of her case, which said: "
who said she grew marijuana to treat the effects of sickle-cell anemia was acquitted
of several drug charges Monday despite overwhelming evidence that her personal
stash was for more than medical use."
California NORML hailed the acquittal as further evidence that California juries are sick and tired of medical marijuana prosecutions.