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

Medical Marijuana Provider Sentenced to One Year in Prison

Federal judge lenient despite additional prison time sought by DOJ


A medical marijuana dispensary operator
whose federal case has gained considerable attention in the media was
sentenced today to one year in prison and four years of supervised
release. Charles C. Lynch was convicted in 2008 under the Bush
Administration and had been awaiting sentencing under the new Obama
Administration. The sentence handed down by federal District Court
Judge George H. Wu is considered lenient given that the Justice
Department was seeking the mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.
Despite indications of a new policy on medical marijuana, the Justice
Department refused to agree with defense attorneys' contention that
Lynch deserved a sentence of time served. Lynch is currently out on
bail pending his appeal, but cannot use medical marijuana according to
the terms of his release.

"Fortunately, the judge saw through the federal government's argument
that Lynch deserved five years in prison, and instead sentenced him to
the least amount of time he could," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with
the national
advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA). "Recognizing that Lynch
had not violated any state or local laws, the judge was lenient despite
the protestations of the federal government." On two of the counts
against Lynch, Judge Wu sentenced him to time served.

Lynch's sentencing comes at a time when the Obama Administration has
indicated a willingness to develop a new policy on medical marijuana.
During his election campaign, President Obama said that he was "not
going to be using
Department resources to try to circumvent state laws" on medical
marijuana. That was followed up with statements by newly-appointed U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder that the
Justice Department would only "go after those people who violate both
federal and
state law." The Administration's commitment to a new policy on medical
marijuana prompted Judge Wu to request written
clarification from the government regarding that policy's impact on
Lynch's case. However, a response from the Deputy Attorney General's
office explained that his case was

Continued drug enforcement raids on medical marijuana dispensaries
under the Obama Administration has prompted Congress to seek
clarification on this new policy. On Tuesday, Congressman Maurice
Hinchey (D-NY)
got report language approved 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.

There are more than two dozen pending federal cases like Lynch's for
which the government has failed to signal any change in strategy.
Advocates contend that the federal government should either cease such
prosecutions or
, at the very least, remove the cases to state court where medical
evidence can properly be heard. 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 argue that the exclusion of evidence is the reason why
Lynch and others are being convicted in federal court.

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 Lynch was
convicted of constituted
violations of local or state law.

Further information:

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.