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

Federal Judge Suggests Leniency for Medical Marijuana Sentencing Thursday

DOJ recommends prison time despite "new policy," no evidence of state law violations


The Justice Department is seeking a
mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years for state and locally sanctioned
medical marijuana provider Charles C. Lynch, despite statements of a
new policy and no evidence of state law violations. Lynch
was convicted in federal court in 2008 under the Bush Administration
and will be sentenced this Thursday at 9:30am in Los Angeles federal
district court. At a previous hearing, Judge George H. Wu indicated
that he doesn't think this case "is one which merits a mandatory
minimum" sentence. However, a legal brief recently filed by the
called the legality of Lynch's conduct under state law "irrelevant" to
his recommended sentence, seemingly in contrast with statements by U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department would only
target those in violation of both federal and state law.

"With no clear evidence that Charles Lynch was in violation of state
law, it's very disingenuous for the federal government to seek prison
time in this case," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with the national
advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA). "Despite this
stance by the federal government, even the judge has expressed
skepticism that Lynch deserves prison time." Elford argued at an April
hearing that no hard evidence of state law violations had been brought
by the government, despite such allegations made by U.S. Attorney
Thomas O'Brien. In response to a request by Judge Wu for written
clarification on the government's new medical marijuana policy, the
Deputy Attorney General's office responded that Lynch's case was

What: Sentencing hearing for medical marijuana
provider Charles C. Lynch

Thursday, June 11th at 9:30am
Los Angeles Federal Court, 312 N. Spring Street,
Courtroom 10

Senator Obama's campaign promise that he was "not going to be using
Department resources to try to circumvent state laws" on medical
marijuana was followed up with more nuanced statements by U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder that the
Justice Department would still "go after those people who violate both
federal and
state law." Confusion around the government's policy ensued as several
medical marijuana providers were raided by the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) even after President Obama took office.

Responding to this confusion, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
requested clarification Tuesday within the Commerce, Justice and
Departments (CJS) Appropriations bill. "It's imperative that the
federal government respect states' rights and stay out of the way of
patients with debilitating diseases such as cancer who are using
medical marijuana in accordance with state law to alleviate their
pain," said Hinchey in a press release issued Tuesday. "We applaud
Congressman Hinchey's leadership on this issue and his attempt to
restrict interference by the federal government in medical marijuana
states," said Caren Woodson, ASA's Director of Government Affairs.

"Lynch's case is only one of more than two
dozen pending federal cases," said Elford. "If the federal government
believes these cases involve violations of state law, then they should
allow them to be decided in the state courts." Because of the June 2005
U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich,
medical marijuana defendants are prohibited from entering evidence
related to medical marijuana or their compliance with local and state
laws. Advocates are demanding that the federal government cease such
prosecutions or
remove them to state court where evidence can properly be heard.

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.