Many of our readers are familiar with the case of James Slatic, the former owner of Medwest Distribution, a California company that supplied cannabis extracts to dispensaries legally under CA law. After the DEA and local law enforcement raided his business early in 2016 and seized his family’s assets, James and his attorneys fought the San Diego District Attorney’s office for more than a year, culminating in a victory earlier this month when a judge ordered the D.A.’s office to return more than $100,000 to the Slatic family.
One of the oddest aspects of the case was the fact that the D.A. had not charged James or anyone in his family with a crime. That changed last week when – almost 16 months after the raid – James, two of his executives and one of his attorneys were all charged with multiple felonies relating to conspiracy and the manufacturing of a controlled substance.
One has to wonder, why now? Is it a response to the order to return assets? Is it some sort of revenge? Or does the D.A. really believe she has a case and just took a really, really long time to bring charges?
The addition of Slatic’s attorney, Jessica McElfresh, to those charged is another anomaly in a strange case.
“At the outset I would say that it is always very difficult to charge an attorney for legal advice being requested by the client,” Defense Attorney Marc Carlos told NBC 7 in San Diego. “The attorney must act in the best interests of the client and sometimes that means safeguarding their interests so that they do not incriminate themselves. That being said, the attorney has an ethical duty to act within the ethical cannons of the state bar and applicable laws. An attorney cannot actively engage in activities which obstruct justice. Under these circumstances that DA will have to prove that she acted with criminal intent in conspiring to violate the law. This is extremely difficult given the ethical duties of the attorney.”
According to the D.A.’s complaint:
On December 24, 2015, MedWest attorney JESSICA MCELFRESH emailed JAMES SLATIC about the inspection that occurred on April 28, 2015. McElfresh told Slatic that the inspectors “were clearly suspicious.” McElfresh continued to say “I had to keep a very, very close eye on the retired SDPD investigator…Gary Jaus…. He’s a very smart man, and I had to walk a very fine line between being very nice and trying too hard to keep him focused on me.” McElfresh continued to say “I didn’t flirt (wouldn’t have worked), but I just kept focusing on the papers…. I’m convinced they walked away knowing it wasn’t a dispensary in the typical sense… but it probably seemed like something other than just paper. That just wasn’t what they were under mandate to look for, and hey, we did a very good job.”
McElfresh continued to say “they’ve been there once and went away, operating under the theory that no actual marijuana is there. We did a really, really good job giving them plausible deniability – and it was clear to them it wasn’t a dispensary. But, I think they suspected it was something else more than paper.” It’s clear that this case is far from over and that the D.A.’s office is not going to let it go.
“I am already out of business,” James Slatic said. “How are these charges in the interest of the public good? This is a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”
Originally published: The Marijuana Times