California Marijuana Dispensary Owners Face Federal Convictions

It started out as a venture between three men to provide a valuable medicine to sick people in California. marijuanaplant.jpg

Now, our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand two of them have pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges, and are awaiting sentences this spring.

A third man – a husband and father of two young girls – is plea deal negotiations as his wife and legal team have launched a highly public appeal for mercy from the federal government.

It’s not even clear at this point why federal authorities started to investigate the Stockton dispensaries co-owned by the three, but new reports reveal it may have actually begun with a speeding ticket, received shortly after the announcement of a federal crackdown on medical marijuana providers in October 2011.

The third man was reportedly stopped for speeding while responding to an alarm at his marijuana supply store. It turned out to be a false alarm.

A week later, officers responded to a suspected break-in at that same facility, but it turned out workers were simply repairing a broken window. A few weeks later, federal authorities burst in with a warrant, found nearly 2,000 marijuana plants and arrested all the owners.

Despite the fact that marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, what these men were doing was perfectly legal under state laws.

Even with that knowledge, federal prosecutors are demanding the young husband and father plead guilty, spend seven years in prison or go to trial on charges for which he could receive a 10-year minimum mandatory (and up to life) – a move his attorneys have called “obscene.”

Federal prosecutors say the dispensaries raked in millions of dollars annually, with several hundred thousand dollars of that being strictly profit. They asserted that the defendant was not an ill patient nor was he a medical caregiver. Instead, he was referred to as a “major player in a very significant commercial operation” that sought to make big bucks of marijuana sales.

But the defendants say federal authorities have their math skewed. In fact, the non-profit salary was less than $50,000 each for more than a year’s worth of work. They weren’t doing it for the money. In fact, the third man’s full-time job was working at a family-owned restaurant.

His wife, in her open letter to President Barack Obama, wrote that he had been motivated to enter this arena by the fact that his grandfather had wasted away from cancer – something that could have been eased by use of the drug. He employed dozens of people, paid his federal, state and local taxes, had all the appropriate permits and above all, was providing an invaluable service to sick people in his community.

The man’s wife and his colleagues believed the president at his word when he previously said he didn’t intend to go after marijuana dispensaries that were abiding by local and state laws.

“My husband is not the ‘bigger fish to fry,'” she wrote in her letter, referring to Obama’s interview last year with Reporter Barbara Walters. “Please drop this case and put an end to our family’s nightmare.”

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

Additional Resources:
Medical marijuana partner pleads guilty to federal drug charges, Jan. 19, 2013, By Peter Hecht, The Sacramento Bee
A Letter to the President: My Husband Is Not the “Bigger Fish to Fry” in Your Drug War, Jan. 14, 2013, By Molly Davies, The Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
Former Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Gets 10 Years in Prison, Jan. 12, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blogs