Last updated on: 9/28/2007 | Author:

J. Tony Serra, JD Biography

Criminal Defense Attorney
Pro to the question "Should Marijuana Be a Medical Option?"

“We all appreciate that California voters passed Proposition 215, which allows for medical usage of marijuana for seriously ill Californians: a person with a recommendation from a doctor is entitled to grow and use marijuana. Now legal authorities at all levels of law enforcement admit up front that they are doing everything they can to de-actualize that law. That is, they will arrest people who have doctors’ recommendations. They will seize plants grown by terminally ill people and turn them over to the district attorney. Most of the time, if it’s a bona fide medical-use case, district attorneys won’t prosecute, but the medicines-the marijuana plants and the marijuana in smoking form-are seized and never returned. Worse than that, they outlaw the marijuana clubs and the people who grow for them. They give lip service to the legalization of milk, and then outlaw the cow.

[B]ack in the sixties, we believed that marijuana was going to be decriminalized. We’re now in the latter part of the nineties. For the small percentage of decriminalization that applies to medical use, law enforcement and often district attorneys won’t give us the benefit of the law. They’re very punitive and very retaliatory. They don’t like the law, and they’re not fulfilling the mandate of the electorate.

[A]t this office, we do marijuana case after marijuana case, and we win many of them. But it’s nothing like the sixties, when all levels of society showed a robust interest in actualizing constitutional rights and expanding the common denominator for justice. It is fairly dismal out there now. We’re hopeful that the pendulum will swing back.”

Whole Earth Magazine, Spring 1999

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Criminal Defense Attorney

    Select Awards:

  • Certificate of Honor, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, 2005
  • Gideon Equal Justice Award, Criminal Trial Lawyers Association of Northern California, 2005
  • Lawyer of the Year, Board of Supervisors, City & County of San Francisco, 2005
  • Co-Awardee, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice’s “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” 2003
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, McFetridge-American Inn of Court, 2003
  • California Lawyers Magazine’s “Top 10 Lawyers of the Century”
  • ACLU Benjamin Dreyfus Civil Liberties Award, 1997
  • Charles Garry Award, 1994
  • Boalt Hall “Alumnus of the Year,” 1993 (approx.)
  • Runner-up, American Lawyer Magazine’s “Best Lawyer in America,” 1982
  • Drug Policy Foundation Achievement in the Field of Law, 1982
  • JD, Boalt School of Law, University of California at Berkley, 1961
  • BA, Philosophy, Stanford University
  • Serra’s Pier 5 Law Offices has successfully defended more medical marijuana cases than any other firm in the country (
  • Successfully defended Black Panther leader Huey Newton, along with numerous other defendants during his 40-year-long career