The Obama administration's aggressive federal enforcement in medical marijuana states has reached a crescendo this month, with three people being sentenced, two others due to surrender to federal authorities to serve out sentences of up to five years in prison, and one federal trial in Montana currently scheduled for Jan. 14. Two of the three people being sentenced in the coming month—Montana cultivator Chris Williams and Los Angeles-area dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky—face five and ten years to life, respectively.
"The number of sick patients being locked up by the Obama administration is unprecedented and deplorable," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy organization. "Aggressive enforcement is an unacceptable means of addressing medical marijuana as a public health issue. The Obama administration is lying to the American people when it says it's not targeting individual patients and these cases are clear evidence of that." Montana patient cultivator Richard Flor died in August while serving out a five-year prison sentence.
Five cultivators claiming to be in compliance with Michigan's medical marijuana law were sentenced in October. Two of the cultivators—Jaycob Montague and Jeremy Duval—are already serving their prison terms of 18 months and 5 years, respectively. Two others—John Marcinkewciz and Shelley Waldron—are scheduled to surrender to federal authorities on Jan. 8 and 10, respectively. Waldron will be imprisoned for 18 months and Marcinkewciz for five years. The fifth cultivator, Jerry Duval (Jeremy's father), was sentenced to 10 years, but has not yet been given a surrender date.
More than a dozen people were indicted after federal agents conducted raids on state compliant medical marijuana businesses throughout Montana in March 2011. Only one, Chris Williams, went to trial and, like all other medical marijuana defendants who are tried in federal court, was denied a medical defense and swiftly convicted. While facing more than 80 years of mandatory minimum sentencing, Williams accepted a rare post-conviction plea deal that reduced his charges and possible sentence to five years in exchange for his promise not to appeal his conviction. Williams, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. , worked at Montana Cannabis with Chris Lindsey, another indicted cultivator. Lindsey, who testified against Williams at his trial, is expected to be sentenced today. Medical marijuana cultivator Jason Washington has one of the last unresolved federal cases in Montana. Washington is currently scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 14.
Aaron Sandusky operated G3 Holistic in Upland, Calif., when he was federally indicted in June. Though Sandusky was arrested with several others, he was the only one who took his case to trial. In October, Sandusky was denied a defense in federal court and convicted at trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7 to a minimum of 10 years to life.
Far surpassing his predecessor George W. Bush, President Obama has conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids on state-compliant medical marijuana businesses and has indicted more than 80 people since he took office. "How many medical marijuana patients is President Obama going to imprison before he considers other, more humane options?" asked Hermes. "The president must answer for why he's going against his earlier pledges by spending Justice Department funds in this way, especially at a time of fiscal crisis." (Americans for Safe Access, Jan. 4)
Graphic by Americans for Safe Access