Montana's Medical Pot Providers, Busted in Federal Raids, Get Jail Time
Many medical marijuana providers busted during federal raids last year have been handed down their sentences, and are facing time behind bars for providing what the state's 2004 voter-approved legalization of medical pot led them to believe was a legal service. Providers faced mandatory minimum sentences of five years in prison, with maximum penalties of 40 years behind bars and fines that could have been as high as $5 million. Fearing the worst, many made deals and pleaded guilty, and judges shortened their sentences, sometimes even lower than the mandatory minimum. But while the trimmed sentences are better than nothing, their implications are troubling.
The Missoulian reports that those convicted of drug charges have been given between six and 18 months in prison, and while these sentences are lesser than those convicted of trafficking non-medical marijuana:
Chris Lindsey, a Missoula attorney who specializes in marijuana cases, cautioned against thinking anyone is getting off easy.
People who thought they'd followed the letter of Montana law are going to prison, mostly because they felt they had no choice but to plead guilty, said Lindsey, a board member of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association.
"We're talking decades of (potential) prison time." Lindsey said. "At a certain point, what happens is they say, ‘OK, if you go to trial, you will not be able to use any state laws as a defense.' " Because of that, conviction at trial is nearly assured, he said.
In addition to jail time, some people face large forfeitures. The Missoulian reports that Evan James Corum of Olney was ordered to cough up a stunning $86,850.
According to the Missoulian, the most prominent distributors have not yet gone to trial.
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