Patient beats marijuana sales charge in Marysville

Salerno, left, and attorney Levinsohn

Salerno, left, with attorney Levinsohn

By Ron Mullins, The Human Solution

WCL News — A Yuba County CA jury acquitted medical marijuana patient Eric Salerno Aug. 9, 2013, who had been arrested in a Marysville fast food restaurant parking lot April 22, 2011 with $3500, a scale, several pounds of marijuana and another valid patient. Both patients showed their physician recommendations to the police, however, when the other patient cut a deal in exchange for testifying against him, the prosecution moved forward.

Salerno and his wife, Desiree, raise their two young sons Lorenzo and Andreas in the Yuba County foothills. The first judge in his case, Judge James F. Dawson, denied Salerno his medical marijuana defense. Allison Margolin’s law office filed a writ of mandamus to the third district appellate court, which issued a stay of the proceedings and allowed Salerno’s medical defense to be reinstated.

The trial courtroom was packed with patients and supporters, thanks to a court activism network called The Human Solution. Trial attorney Michael Levinsohn was fully prepared to elicit the testimony of several patients, cannabis expert witness Chris Conrad and gardening expert Michael Hanson to press a multi-faceted medical use defense. However, after DDA John Nash rested his case, it was clear that a key element of establishing proof beyond reasonable doubt was missing from the case. The prosecution was relying upon the notion that having a scale automatically proves an intent to sell, a notion that had been dispelled years earlier in the People v Chakos case.

After consulting with his team, Levinsohn adopted a tactic akin to legal jujitsu. Instead of putting on his own witnesses, Levinsohn took his opponents own move and used it against him by getting a key prosecution witness to agree that a patient has other uses for a scale that do not involve selling marijuana. Levinsohn asked for a dismissal based on insufficient evidence, and trial Judge Julia Scrogin agreed and dismissed two counts, attempted sales and transportation.

The one remaining charge went before the jury, possession with intent to sell, allowing the jury to interpret why the scale was present. Defense counsel slammed home the point that the evidence showed only that two lawful patients were in a parking lot with marijuana, scales and money, but not what either person’s intentions were for being there. Levinsohn argued that patients have a right to have money and a defense to possess marijuana, so that no logical person could presume that simply being in the presence of a scale made Salerno guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

After just one hour of deliberation the jury came back with a clear and unanimous decision of not guilty and granted him a full acquittal. The courtroom erupted in cheers and supporters had tears in their eyes. Salerno and Levinsohn hugged each other and sobbed, and even the jurors seemed to be happy with the outcome. Many stayed after court to congratulate and talk with Salerno and his supporters.

“Fight back and never give up,” Salerno admonished his supporters outside the court, “even when you loose, and they deny your rights, fight back. Make them realize you are the righteous one.” He praised and credited Margolin and Levinsohn for their hard work to secure his acquittal. — West Coast Leaf News Service.

Human Solution supporters in Marysville

Human Solution supporters in Marysville with patient Eric Salerno and attorney Michael Levinsohn.

4 comments to Patient beats marijuana sales charge in Marysville

  • Bette Braden

    Great article. I am so happy that someone wrote about a victory. This tells me the tide has turned and we should be seeing more of this now.


  • Thank You West Coast Leaf for publishing my story ;)
    After 2 years it was a well deserved victory!!

  • We all hope so, Bette. The new Modoc County DA sounds like he’s ready to cut loose of some of his county medical marijuana cases, Mendocino and Humboldt counties have very few cases compared to what they used to, and the Dr. Sanjay Gupta report on CNN, “Weeds” may help us to turn the tide, as you say. Good luck to us all.

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