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Medical Marijuana: California Dispensary Operator Charles Lynch Sentenced to a Year and a Day, Remains Free Pending Appeal

A federal judge in Los Angeles sentenced Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary operator Charles Lynch to a year and a day in federal prison Thursday in one of the first sentences to be handed down since the Obama administration said it was adjusting federal policy on medical marijuana. Lynch was scheduled to be sentenced earlier this year, but US District Judge George Wu postponed that hearing with federal medical marijuana policy up in the air.
Charlie Lynch (from
Lynch was convicted of five marijuana-related offenses last year for operating his dispensary in Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County even though the dispensary was licensed and operated with the approval of local authorities -- except for the sheriff, who turned to the feds after being frustrated in his efforts to shut down the operation of which he did not approve, but which operated in accordance with state law.

Judge Wu showed some leniency in sentencing. Under federal law, Lynch faced a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, but Wu said Lynch merited an exception. He also allowed Lynch to remain free on bail while pursuing an appeal.

That wasn't enough for drug reform advocates. "For Charlie Lynch to spend one night in federal prison, let alone a year, is a travesty," said Stephen Gutwillig, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "This dispensary operator followed all state and local rules and has been dragged into a legal nightmare right out of Kafka. He is caught between California's voter-approved medical marijuana system and the Bush administration's single-minded effort to smother it. That Attorney General Holder changed federal policy three months ago only makes this miscarriage of justice all the more disturbing. Charlie is like a forgotten prisoner of war, abandoned after a truce was declared."

"Years from now, Mr. Lynch may well be remembered as the last American to go to federal prison for a mistake, the final victim of an already repudiated policy well on its way to the ash heap of history, but whose mean-spirited effects still linger," said Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia. "This sentence is a cruel and pointless miscarriage of justice. Mr. Lynch and his attorneys say they plan to appeal, and we hope they succeed. With federal law enforcement at the Mexican border so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, even one more penny spent persecuting a man who is not a criminal in any rational sense of the word is an outrageous waste of resources."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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What was the name of that shithead sheriff again?

My family lives in San Luis Obispo (SLO-Town as it's known) and wish to warn them of dangerous criminals like the sheriff... jeez what a fucking wanker... how old is this childish man of the law... what A FUCKING joker!


I know all the bars in SLO-town and the sheriff better stay away from all of them... if he's caught consuming drugs more dangerous then marijuana... say alcohol.... we'll get in his face and call him on it... at the least!

Fuck You Sheriff... You Sullying Shithead!

Yeah...because that

Yeah...because that aggression will go real well towards changing a sheriff's mind to the fact that cannabis and cannabis users are not dangerous. The way to approach this is to actually think. And get involved. Not to yell at cops.

Wrong -- it takes both

You need both level-headed, sober activist approaches, and you need shame tactics that call these guys out (nothing violent however). You got to hit them from both sides...they must know the public is disgusted to the point of resorting to screaming.

- Chuck

Much happiness to Charlie....But still a bad rap

What we need to do is back up Charlie, financially, morally, verbally in discussions and in support protests etc. We must write editorials to our local papers, blogs etc... that this IS important too MANY people. Then write the WH. Shouting at cops is NOT a worthwhile tactic. Support Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap) instead!

10th Amendment State's Rights!

The Federal government is only an "Agent" of the states!!!

Kangaroo court railroad job

An outrageous waste of resources AND an abortion of justice.

Just like Bryan Epis' "trial", Ed Rosenthal, and the rest.

The Federal law, Nixon's putrid legacy, must be abolished. Cannabis in Schedule I is a damned lie.

Stephanie Landa got it raw

Stephanie Landa got it raw and wrong. In 2003, LAMPS, the first medical marijuana patient's union made the huge mistake of having a Q&A meeting between San Francisco patients, providers, and Kevin Cashman, then Captain of the SFPD's narcotics division and SFPD's Marty Halloran in an effort to get on the same page about what the cops expect of us and vice versa. I chaired the meeting with all the questions for the cops read by me anonymously. They asked the crowd who'd asked each question and the people all gave their info as the cops were collecting info to use against us with no intention of EVER being in agreement with us. Halloran befriended Landa and Kevin Gage there upon learning of their grow and ADVISED them, they thought in an effort to keep them legal but Halloran's weekly visits to the site they'd chosen even with Halloran's input, were for building a case against them. At Harvest Halloran used city resources paid for by citizens in favor of legalization, to bust the growers! And knowing that due to the City's Medical Marijuana Sanctuary position and pro pot attitudes, he took the case over local judicial's heads and directly to the feds!! How this law enforcement tactic was tolerated and how Halloran is not fired from the force is beyond me but Stephanie is still paying the unfair price in federal prison.....with even more unfairness: She's been put in solitary and had 6 months tacked on to her sentence for testing positive for THC while incarcerated DESPITE THE MARINOL PERSCRIPTION THAT HAS PRISON STAFF ADMINISTERING THE VERY CHEMICAL SHE'S RECEIVED ADDITIONAL PUNISHMENT FOR. Don't look for fair, honest, ethical, or even logical behavior from law enforcement surrounding this issue. All they have is bullshit.


The war on drugs has created the mindset we are experiencing today. It is going to take time for a new outlook on cannabis to be reestablished. We are, unfortunately, in charge of that. The bad apples will set us back as well as the authorities who feel that they were not misinformed by the campaign on cannabis. It is a huge responsibility to create a different and a more accurate view on this plant. To help put our job into perspective, there are a lot of people that are scared to even say the word marijuana. It's not really the
sherriffs fault. He was doing what he thought was right based on 40+ years of misinformation. Be patient, move forward with a level headed approach, and mighty forces will be at our aid.

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