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Cannabis Club Co-Founder Convicted

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional
Review / DEVELOPMENTS IN ORANGE, RIVERSIDE, SAN BERNARDINO
AND VENTURA COUNTIES

November 20, 1998

WESTMINSTER — In a case being closely watched by marijuana activists across Southern California, a jury Thursday convicted the co-founder of a local cannabis club of selling the drug. But the verdicts fell short of the full victory sought by prosecutors.

The Superior Court jury took just over a day to convict Marvin Chavez, 42, in what legal experts consider one of the most significant cases of its kind since state voters legalized medicinal marijuana use two years ago.

The district attorney's office portrayed Chavez as a sophisticated drug dealer operating under the guise of Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized the medical use of marijuana in the state.

But jurors declined to convict him on five counts of felony marijuana sales in cases in which Chavez gave the drug to caregivers using it to treat patients. Instead, the panel convicted him of misdemeanor charges of "giving away marijuana."

In addition, Chavez was found guilty on two felony counts of selling marijuana to undercover investigators from the district attorney's office and one felony count of transporting the drug. But he was acquitted on two other charges related to his sale to the officers.

Chavez's case has become a rallying cry for some supporters of legalized marijuana, who have been particularly critical of the undercover operation that resulted in some of the charges.

Outside the courtroom an emotional Chavez, who is free on $100,000 bail, vowed to continue his fight.

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