Former Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Gets 10 Years in Prison

Under state law, he was legally operating three medical marijuana facilities in the Inland Empire, providing an invaluable service to hundreds of patients. blackhandcuffs.jpg

But under federal law, he was a felony drug dealer, and for that, he will serve 10 years in federal prison, per the sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson.

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers think it’s worth noting that this was the lightest possible sentence he could have received following his October conviction on federal charges of conspiring to manufacture and possess marijuana with intent to distribute it, conspiring to operate a drug-involved premises and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Anderson was quoted as saying that the court’s hands were tied.

The 42-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga who operated G3 Holistics Inc., is so far one of four people in the U.S. targeted by federal prosecutors for criminal charges related to their involvement in state-sanctioned medical marijuana clinics. This case is a travesty of justice, as the government has blatantly ignored the fact that the actions of this individual were legal under state law.

Now compare this with the recent sentencing of one of three public officials in connection with a bribery ring in which they extorted tens of thousands of dollars from a would-be marijuana dispensary owner, who was acting as an FBI informant. The sentence in that case? Probation. No prison.

In the G3 case, defense lawyers sought probation here too. The defendant opened his medical marijuana facilities after his real estate business collapsed in the wake of the housing market bust. Prosecutors held up this fact as evidence that his motives were sketchy from the start, and said he was warned by investigators that he should shut down.

It’s true that his Upland branch had been shut down in 2010 due to a city-requested injunction, but that measure was reversed the following year by an appellate court ruling in the dispensary’s favor.

His dispensaries were in Colton, Upland and Moreno Valley. Prosecutors say he relied on a “veneer of legitimacy” to conceal the illegal sale of marijuana.

Federal agents first began investigating the defendant in late 2011, shortly after the announcement of a federal crackdown on dispensaries that were purportedly disregarding state regulations.

Investigators reportedly determined that at G3, customers were not involved in cultivation and that the plants were being obtained from an illegal grow operation inside a Canadian warehouse. Further, a concurrent IRS investigation reportedly concluded that suspicious deposits and withdrawals were made with the intended purpose of making the dispensaries appear to be not-for-profit when in fact, it was a business.

However, defense lawyers had argued that the owner truthfully believed he was operating within the confines of the law. Further, federal authorities had not been clear on how they would apply drug laws in states like California, where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes. Based on statements made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, the defendant did not believe federal agents would pursue criminal action against dispensary owners.

In fact, we were all led to believe this. How wrong we were to trust the word of our elected officials.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Marijuana dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky sentenced to 10 years, Jan. 7, 2013, By Wes Woods II, Contra Costa Times
More Blog Entries:
Federal Forfeiture Decision Still Pending for Harborside, Jan. 5, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog