Oakland, California med-pot club founder Jeff Jones received an unexpected gift from US Magistrate Judge Peter Nowinski on March 3 of this year.
Instead of following through with a three-month federal prison sentence that he had angrily handed Jones the week before, Nowinski offered unsupervised probation to the well-known activist.
Jones had been found guilty of federal misdemeanors for distributing illegal “pamphlets” outside the California federal trial courtroom of med-pot grower Bryan Epis last year.
During the March 3 resentencing hearing, Nowinski announced that he had had a change of heart, and re-sentenced Jones to three years unsupervised probation.
Before the surprise announcement, Jones had held a press conference during which he said he would go on a hunger strike if he was sent to prison.
The Jones case, like the cases of Ed Rosenthal, Mike Foley, Valerie Corral, Scott Imler, Molly Fry and many other prominent California med-pot defendants persecuted by the Bush administration, has generated strong protests.
Indeed, Judge Nowinski said he had been offered med-pot protest pamphlets himself, and that both he and the judge in the Epis case had even received threatening letters that contained an unspecified “white powder.”
Nowinski reportedly said that feelings on all sides of the med-pot issue were too intense; observers took this to mean that California federal judges are experiencing a high degree of ethical conflict by having to enforce federal med-pot prohibition in a state that so clearly has legalized medical pot under state law.
Newfound reconciliation and mutual respect seemed to be the mood in Nowinski’s courtroom, as the judge apologized to Jones for the trouble the government had caused him, while also waiving the fine Jones was ordered to pay.
In return, Jones apologized to the judge for violating federal law by attempting to influence the Epis jury.
Bay Area activists are stunned and pleased by Jones’ reprieve, and are hoping that this bodes well for Cannabis Culture grow guru Ed Rosenthal, who was mistreated by the judge in his federal cultivation trial last month, and who is petitioning the trial judge to throw out the verdict because the jury was compromised.
Jones, often described as “the boy wonder of pot,” founded the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative. He has long been viewed as one of the most hardworking, ethical and telegenic marijuana activists in the country. He appeared before the US Supreme Court three years ago, in an unsuccessful bid to win federal approval for California med-pot clubs and Proposition 215.