The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842
or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

DOJ: Policy Statements on Medical Marijuana Don't Affect Federal Sentencing

Advocacy group to argue at 4/23 sentencing hearing that Lynch did not violate state law


Legal counsel for the advocacy
organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) will appear on behalf of
Charles C. Lynch at his federal sentencing hearing on Thursday, April
23rd to challenge the federal government's claim of state law
violations. Even though defendants are prevented from using a medical
marijuana defense in federal court, they can argue state law compliance
at sentencing. ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford will argue that Lynch in no
way violated state law,
something that U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien has alleged in his
sentencing recommendations.

At Lynch's previously scheduled sentencing hearing on March 23rd,
federal district court Judge George H. Wu asked for written
clarification from the U.S. Attorney General as to whether recent
statements by that office would impact Lynch's sentencing. In a brief
filed Friday, U.S. Attorney O'Brien stated that "the Deputy Attorney
General has reviewed the facts of this case and determined that the
investigation, prosecution, and conviction of defendant are entirely
consistent with the policies of DOJ and with public statements made by
the Attorney General with respect to marijuana prosecutions." Lynch's
sentencing, which was originally postponed until April 30th, was
changed by Judge Wu to April 23rd.

What: Sentencing hearing for Charles C. Lynch at
which state law compliance will be argued by Chief Counsel for medical
marijuana advocates Americans for Safe Access

When: Thursday, April 23rd at 10:30 a.m.

Where: Los Angeles Federal Court, 312 N. Spring Street,
Courtroom 10

"It's bad enough that the Justice Department is accusing Lynch of
violating state law in order to sentence him in federal court," said
ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "But, there is not even any evidence that
state law was violated." Despite a March 2008 public statement by
then-Senator Obama that he was "not going to be using Justice
Department resources to try to circumvent state laws" on medical
marijuana, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has since stated that the
DOJ would still "go after those people who violate both federal and
state law."

Advocates contend that the federal government should not even be
prosecuting violations of state medical marijuana law. "It's
disingenuous to accuse people of state law violations and then
prosecute them under federal law, thereby denying them an adequate
defense in federal court," continued Elford. Because of the June 2005
U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, federal
medical marijuana defendants are prohibited from entering evidence
related to medical marijuana or their compliance with local and state
laws. With more than two dozen pending federal medical marijuana cases,
advocates are demanding that the government cease prosecutions or
remove them to state court where evidence can properly be heard.

Defense attorneys are seeking time served for Lynch, but he faces a
mandatory minimum of 6 years and the possibility of up to 20 years in
federal prison. Before his medical marijuana dispensary was raided by
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in March of 2007, Lynch
had operated for 11 months without incident, and with the blessing of
the Morro Bay City Council, the local Chamber of Commerce, and other
community members. Two months after Lynch closed his dispensary,
Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, he was indicted and charged
with conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute
marijuana and concentrated cannabis, manufacturing more than 100
plants, knowingly maintaining a drug premises, and sales of marijuana
to a person under the age of 21. None of the federal charges constitute
violations of local or state law.

Further information:

DOJ Response to Judge Wu's request for clarification:

Charles C. Lynch Interview with John Stossel:
Friends of Charles C. Lynch website:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.