California-based lawyer Jessica McElfresh has been hit with a slew of felony charges by the San Diego District Attorney for alleged "conspiracies to commit a crime and obstruct justice and manufacturing a controlled substance," but others are claiming that these charges are merely retaliation for a case that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis lost against McElfresh.
The DA and her team lost to McElfresh in a court case, which forced the DA to return the money confiscated (roughly $100,000) that was taken during a Drug Enforcement Agency raid of Med-West Distributors in January 2016. Many are citing that the new case filed against McElfresh is vindictive and could potentially affect Marijuana-based businesses in the future.
Several lawyers in the Cannabis industry have spoken out about these charges.
San Francisco-based lawyer Henry Wykowsk explains further-
“This is clearly a vindictive prosecution arising from the court’s order that they return the seized funds. As bad as that is in and of itself, this is clearly calculated to send a chill to the attorneys that defend cannabis businesses, that they can become targets.”
Charging a lawyer is also noted to be extremely rare, and this case is unique for business lawyers overall.
These charges set a precedent to those representing businesses, and looks to be a scare tactic that prevents marijuana businesses from getting the counsel they are supposed to be legally given access to.
In a statement, the NCBA have explained that-
"[they are] gravely concerned about the chilling effects that the handling of this case may have on attorneys serving cannabis industry clients, possibly resulting in the inability for this new industry to access competent legal services.
Several state bars have recently acknowledged the importance of ensuring that state-lawful cannabis businesses have access to legal services.
Access to legal services is necessary to help the cannabis industry comply with the myriad regulations designed to keep the public safe and marijuana out of the hands of children. Prosecutions like this one will undoubtedly serve to deter lawyers from representing clients in the cannabis industry for fear they, too, may be prosecuted."
More information about the case can be found here.