Woman's Pot Arrest Sparks Debate Over Treating Patients In Need

Woman's Pot Arrest Sparks Debate Over Treating Patients In Need

By Paul Gaita 08/02/17

The woman was on a mission to get medical marijuana to patients who couldn't afford to go to dispensaries.

Image: 
Jessica Andreavich
Jessica Andreavich Photo via YouTube

A Delaware resident and marijuana activist who manufactured the plant form of the drug into edibles, oils and creams, often without charge, was convicted on charges of drug-dealing and conspiracy.

Jessica Andreavich, 45, who began making the products in her home in an attempt to help connect low-income and veteran patients with medical marijuana that was often out of their financial reach, was arrested after selling edibles and tincture to an undercover police officer posing as a veteran. She was found guilty on July 26 and sentenced to one year of probation and community service, sparking medical marijuana advocates to question state policy about treating medical patients in need.

Andreavich started her unlicensed marijuana dispensing business, Jekka's Folly, in response to struggles faced by patients seeking medical marijuana. Since Delaware launched its medical marijuana program in 2011, low-income patients have complained about the high cost of even the smallest amount of cannabis, which often prevents them from receiving the treatment they need for physical and mental health issues. "There are people who can't get into the program," said Andreavich. "If they're poor, they have to find money."

To assist these individuals, Andreavich launched Jekka's Folly, which she claimed was "not designed to make money." In many cases, she simply cooked the product brought to her by customers, but eventually had to charge a fee to process her edibles. Andreavich charged $60 to the undercover officer, who showed her a valid veteran's card but claimed that she was waiting for acceptance into the state's medical marijuana program, and more importantly, the state ID card issued to all program members. 

Delaware law allows individuals with medical marijuana cards to share cannabis with other cardholders, provided that it does not exceed the six ounces they are allowed to have at one time. By providing the officer with marijuana, Andreavich broke the agreement required by all cardholders to "not divert marijuana to any individual or entity that is not allowed to possess marijuana," which in turn generated an initial charge of five counts of drug dealing, one count of possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of conspiracy.

Two other individuals at Andreavich's home at the time of the arrest – Peter Skorupa, 23, who assisted Andreavich in manufacturing edibles, and Russell Sloan – were also charged with the multiple counts.

The Delaware Attorney General's Office issued a statement in regard to Andreavich's case, noting that "while the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act recognizes certain circumstances where an individual may dispense marijuana, this Act, of course, requires registration compliance, and does not allow the transfer of marijuana to any person who is not allowed to possess marijuana under Delaware law." But marijuana advocates took up Andreavich's case, including medical cannabis expert Dr. David Bearman, who took a narrow view of the charges against her. "Frankly, I think that law enforcement has better things to do with their time," he said.

As for Andreavich, she plans to appeal the verdict and reapply for her medical marijuana card, which was revoked due to the charges. She was a medical marijuana patient long before she launched her business, and needs the drug to control her anxiety, depression and arthritis. In a video posted on her Facebook page hours after the verdict was handed down in her case, she spoke out about the factors that led to her arrest.

"Although the community wasn't really in danger by the evil Jekka, there were businesses that were in jeopardy because I like to give stuff at much lower prices because we have such sick people here in Delaware that can't afford medicine," she said in the video. "So I'm absolutely guilty of helping out some cardholders with cheaper medicine through the black market."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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