Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pot Dispensary Operator Gets 10 Years

California marijuana dispensary owner Aaron Sandusky received a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years this week, despite promises from the Obama Administration that it would not prosecute marijuana dispensary owners in states, like California, where such conduct is legal under state (but not federal) law.
Aaron Sandusky, one of only a handful of defendants to fight U.S. prosecutors, was convicted in October on federal charges of distributing marijuana.
Sandusky faced as much as life in prison, but U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson gave him the minimum sentence possible under federal guidelines.
"In this case, as the defendant was warned, the court's hands are tied," Anderson said. "Whether you agree with the defendant's position or not." ...

Only three similar cases have been tried in recent years - Charles C. Lynch of Arroyo Grande, a former Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary owner, Michigan father and son Gerald and Jeremy Duval, and Christopher Williams of Montana.
Lynch, a former Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary owner, faced up to 20 years for selling more than $2.1 million in marijuana during a year's time. He was sentenced to a reduced term of a year and a day in prison in June 2009.
The Duvals were convicted of growing marijuana in greenhouses, and while they claimed it was for medicinal purposes, the judge at sentencing found their operation suggested otherwise.
In Montana, where medical marijuana is also legal, federal prosecutors successfully charged Christopher Williams, who was convicted in September of eight counts of conspiring to grow and distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense.
Williams has settled with prosecutors in his criminal proceedings. Six of the charges will be dismissed in exchange for withdrawing his pending motions for acquittal and a new trial. He will face five years to life in prison.
The mandatory minimums for marijuana in these cases are an injustice for the same reason that all mandatory sentences are unjust:  they don't let judges do their jobs.  The judges in these cases can't consider all the relevant facts and circumstances -- including the conflict between state and federal law about what is and isn't illegal. The facts and legal issues in these cases are complex, making mandatory sentences a particularly inappropriate outcome.