A ballot initiative filed Monday is the most viable effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California in years. The initiative, filed Monday for $200 with the state's attorney general, still has a lot of process to go through. [...]
Most Americans want pot to be legal, and as many as 70% of Americans want to legalize it for medical use. Nonetheless, the war on pot rages on. The Obama administration has actually increased raids on state-sanctioned medical pot programs, prosecuting both patients and their providers. Medical pot defendants have little protection in the justice system, which denies as evidence mention of their marijuana prescription or state-sanctioned use. A review of some of the sentences over the past few decades — punishments that plague individuals for decades, even after release — reveals the injustice of the drug war. Here’s a rundown of the people who received the harshest penalties handed down for pot in recent history.
1. Christopher Williams
A Montana medical marijuana provider is facing 82 to 85 years behind bars, due to mandatory minimum laws linked to some of his charges. Convicted of crimes like manufacturing marijuana, intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, Christopher Williams appeared to be in the for the worst. But in a rare move this September, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter offered to drop four of Williams’ charges and bring his sentencing down to “as little as 10 years,” so long as Williams waived his right to appeal.
Williams refused the offer on moral grounds. The case isn’t about medical pot, says Williams, whose judge prohibited discussion of Montana’s medical marijuana program at trial. Rather, he says, it is about government abuse of power. “I have decided to fight the federal government, because for me not defending the things that I know are right is dishonorable,” Williams wrote to the Independent Record, “Every citizen has a responsibility to fight for what is right, even if it seems like the struggle will be lost.”
Michael Donahoe, Williams’ attorney, said that federal prosecutors often bring gun charges against medical marijuana defendants without the intent to prosecute them. Rather, they are hoping for a plea bargain — one Williams is not willing to take.
“We know this for two reasons,” Donahoe told the Missoulan, “First, because the government readily agreed to dismiss the firearms counts for virtually every other medical marijuana defendant in those cases where firearms violations had been charged. And second, because insofar as [Williams’] ‘conspiracy’ is concerned, every other defendant had no real choice but to plead guilty in exchange for the firearms charges being dropped.”
He added, “Given the government’s conduct here that was a false choice inspired by an abusive exercise of government power, considering that it was the government’s reckless decision to change its medical marijuana policy that was the first cause of all these problems.”
2. Patricia Spottedcrow
Oklahoma mother of four Patricia Spottedcrow learned firsthand how a small-time pot bust can completely derail an offender’s life. A $31 pot sale got her a stunning 1 [...]
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