(LA Times) The owner of a Morro Bay pot dispensary who emerged as a key figure in the national debate over medical marijuana was sentenced to one year and one day in prison today by a federal judge in Los Angeles.
Charles Lynch, 47, dressed in a dark suit, sat with his hands clasped and stared straight ahead as the sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu. Lynch declined the opportunity to address the court moments earlier. His mother, seated in the courtroom gallery nearby, fought back tears as Wu said he saw no way around imposing a sentence of at least one year.
Lynch’s case made headlines nationwide and came to symbolize the tension between conflicting state and federal marijuana laws. Cultivating, using and selling doctor-recommended marijuana is allowed under some circumstances in California and about a dozen other states, but such activities are banned entirely under federal law.
Lynch was prosecuted for illegally distributing marijuana from his Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers facility, despite having the blessing of Morro Bay’s mayor, city attorney and other civic leaders.
The Obama Administration had signaled that it will not seek prosecutions and raids against medical marijuana dispensary owners who are acting in accordance with state laws. Charles Lynch couldn’t have followed state laws more scrupulously, but that is a moot point in the federal courthouse, where defendants cannot even mention the medical nature of their legal state-approved business.
This case highlights the need to pass Rep. Barney Franks’ Medical Marijuana Protection Act of 2009, to be introduced later today. The bill would protect providers and patients in the thirteen medical marijuana states from harassment and prosecution by federal authorities (more on that bill later today).
In the meantime, we can appeal to the man who can bring us some Change We Can Believe In, President Obama, who in the stroke of a pen can commute Charles Lynch’s sentence just as easily as former President Bush commuted former VP Chief of Staff Scooter Libby‘s sentence in the CIA agent-outing Valerie Plame case. Mr. Lynch would remain convicted and retain a criminal record, but he would be spared of any prison time. Or President Obama could do the truly honorable thing and pardon Mr. Lynch just as easily as former President Ford pardoned former President Nixon, absolving him of any conviction or prison time.
The Change we’d like to see is our Federal Government respecting the will of the people in thirteen states regarding medical use of marijuana and our President living up to his campaign promises to focus his Justice Department resources on more urgent matters.
Call President Obama at 202-456-1111.
Tell him to commute the sentence of
Charles Lynch or pardon him outright!