Federal Marijuana Convictions in Medical Marijuana States Tally 500 Years

It doesn’t matter that you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. It doesn’t matter that the president of the United States has vowed not to go after you. It doesn’t matter that you are abiding by the rules of the state.

If you cultivate, possess or distribute marijuana – regardless of the reason – the federal government has the right to harass, rob and imprison you.
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That’s the message at least that federal prosecutors are trying to send in their senseless efforts to incarcerate hundreds of individuals found to be in violation of antiquated federal laws pertaining to marijuana.

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that a recent analysis of federal court records by the California branch of NORML, as well as Americans for Safe Access, shows that nearly 340 defendants have been federally charged with marijuana crimes in states that have medical marijuana laws.

The vast majority of these – 259 – are from California.

Furthermore, there are nearly 160 defendants serving prison sentences that total nearly 500 years, with another 50 individuals waiting to be sentenced.

These cases are tough to win. Ninety percent have resulted in in criminal convictions. The other 10 percent have been dismissed. Only one defendant was acquitted. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that federal law bars defendants from using their state’s medical marijuana laws as a defense to their actions, though there are continued court efforts to break down that barrier.

Despite Obama’s “bigger fish to fry” pledge, saying his administration would not bother to pursue those who were following the marijuana laws of their state, more than 150 cases have been brought during his 4.5 years. That is nearly as many as were brought under the eight years of the previous Bush administration, which totaled 163. What’s more, despite Obama’s promise, not one of these individuals serving time has been granted a clemency petition or pardon.

Although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has testified that his Department of Justice has only taken action against those medical marijuana dispensaries that were defying state law, the reality is that a number of defendants were complying totally with state regulations and local laws. These are dispensaries that have taken extensive actions to cooperate with state authorities, work with local governments, offer a valuable service to ailing patients and millions of tax dollars to cash-starved municipalities. Many of the actions of federal authorities have in fact been in direct protest to the stance of local authorities.

The Justice Department isn’t the only federal agency that has made this a priority either. We have IRS auditors who have used tax rules that are unfair to deny routine deductions afforded to every other business. We have the Department of Treasury forcing lenders and banks to deny financial services to those in the medical marijuana industry. We also have the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms ruling it illegal for medical marijuana patients to purchase guns. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has barred the use of medical marijuana in research.

The list goes on. Anyone who says there isn’t a war on weed is wrong. As California NORML’s director was quoted as saying, these efforts truly exemplify government dysfunction at its absolute worst.

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

Additional Resources:
US Court Records Show Nearly 500 Years in Prison Time for Medical Marijuana Offenses, June 13, 2013, California NORML
More Blog Entries:
California Doctor Describes Her Shift to Pro-Marijuana Reform, June 15, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog