New at Reason.tv: "This is an injustice and I think everyone has gotten the message"—Is Charlie Lynch's year-and-a-day sentence the end of medical marijuana prosecution?

Charlie Lynch is the medical marijuana dispensary owner whose business, fully legal under California state law, was raided by federal agents in 2007. Lynch was charged with five counts of violating federal drug laws. He faced as many as 100 years in prison, but on his June 11, 2009 sentencing date many expected the mandatory-minimum five-year sentence.

Although the fact that Lynch was prosecuted at all is an affront to anyone who believes in the 10th Amendment or the efficacy of medical marijuana, Lynch and his attorneys were relieved with the 366-day sentence delivered by U.S. District Court Judge George Wu. Lynch is free pending appeal, and his attorneys are hopeful he can avoid prison entirely. If he is imprisoned, the actual time he would spend behind bars would likely be about four months.

Defense attorney Reuven Cohen expects that his client will be among the last dispensary owners prosecuted in our nation's failed war on drugs. "I really think," says Cohen, "you're looking at, if not the last, then the penultimate or third to last medical marijuana dispensary prosecution in the United States....This is an injustice, and I think everyone has gotten the message."

This video update is approximately three minutes. Produced by Ted Balaker; shot by Alex Manning and Paul Detrick.

For audio podcast, iPod and HD versions, and related links, go here now.

The reason.tv documentary short, "Raiding California," which brought the Lynch case to a national audience, is here.

Reason's coverage of the Lynch saga is here.

Update: Reason's Jacob Sullum asks "Why Not Two Days Instead of 366?"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Abdul||

    If he is imprisoned, the actual time he would spend behind bars would likely be about four months.

    Where do you get this from? Under federal sentencing guidelines, anyone sentenced to over a year in federal prison has to do 85% of the time (that's why the seemingly arbitrary "year and a day" sentence is so common--if you get under a year you have to serve every day of the sentence).

  • Jason||

    Charlie Lynch is the medical marijuana dispensary owner whose business, fully legal under California state law

    But not federal law.

    Although the fact that Lynch was prosecuted at all is an affront to anyone who believes in the 10th Amendment

    Yes but the commerce clause gives the federal government this power.

    or the efficacy of medical marijuana

    Not an excuse, congress determined in 1971 that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical efficacy. There are safer drugs available by prescription.

    The law's the law.

  • Warty||

    The law's the law.

    Fuck the law.

  • Brian Defferding||

    Jason: The law is dumb.

  • ||

    People, don't feed the troll.

    I've noticed that around the internet that many sources are attributing the light sentence to Obama's new policies on medical marijuana, which is, of course, a ridiculously untrue statement.

  • ||

    Jason - No, the Commerce Clause does not give the Federal government that power. Regardless of what the Supreme Court says, that power is not there. The people are justified breaking that 'law' (or being constrained by it) in whatever fashion they choose.
    -K

  • Xeones||

    Yes but the commerce clause gives the federal government this power.

    Only a supremely tortured and logically bereft reading of it does.

    Not an excuse, congress determined in 1971 that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical efficacy. There are safer drugs available by prescription.

    Yes, and as everyone knows it's only the best and brightest, fully trained in science, medicine, and fucking everything else, that selflessly give of their time and talents to serve in Congress. No, wait, the only thing more stuffed with assholes than the Capitol is Warty's hard drive.

    The law's the law.

    The law is an ass, and so are you.

  • Hacha Cha||

    but since the dispensaries aren't selling their medicine outside state borders the commerce clause doesn't apply here.
    oh well if congress thinks marijuana is "dangerous" and has no "medical use" then it must be true!

  • Chad||

    Actually, I don't believe in the efficacy of "medical marijuana". I DO believe that there are effective medical compounds contained in marijuana. However, smoking is an absurd and unsafe delivery mechanism.

    Pot should be legal - but not because of its medical uses. Not all arguments that support a just cause are good arguments, and the medical marijuana argument is one of these.

  • Xeones||

    So just eat brownies, Chad. Or invest in a vaporizer. If someone else wants to smoke it, so what?

  • Ken||

    If he is imprisoned, the actual time he would spend behind bars would likely be about four months.



    Abdul is correct that this is potentially misleading -- for federal sentences of a year or a day or longer, inmates serve not less than 85%, given good behavior. The "behind bars" provides the fudge factor -- it's entirely possible that the Bureau of Prisons will designate him to spend some amount of his sentence in a halfway house (in federal parlance, a Community Corrections Center), given his probable low security ranking and the length of the sentence.

  • ||

    "Actually, I don't believe in the efficacy of "medical marijuana""

    If you ever got hold of some primo weed you would.

    BTW, no one gives a shit what you "believe" you stupid cunt.

  • ||

    Frankly, I don't understand why there are any drugs that are medically illegal. I mean, for crying out loud, they can legally pump poison into you for cancer treatment (chemotherapy) on the chance that it *might* reduce the size of the tumors (and will, with almost 100% certainty, make you sick, weak, tired and bald), but they can't prescribe a light hallucinogen (marijuana) that will, with almost 100% certainty, make you feel better and give you an appetite.

    Similarly, heroin or XTC would probably be great drugs to prescribe to people on their death bed. Let them enjoy their last few days. It may even prolong their life if they're enjoying it.

  • ||

    """There are safer drugs available by prescription."""

    Perhaps you've never read the side affects of popular prescription drugs? So how do you define safe?

    NAL is correct, the medical community uses far more dangerous stuff everyday, so the "safety" argument doesn't fly.

    If Obama believes it's wrong for the feds to raid the state legal pot shops, then he should pardon Lynch.

    """but since the dispensaries aren't selling their medicine outside state borders the commerce clause doesn't apply here."""

    Exactly.

  • Hacha Cha||

    who said anything about smoking? have you ever heard of tinctures and vaporizers?

  • LarryA||

    The law's the law.

    No matter how law-abiding you think you are, sooner or later that statement will turn and bite you in the ass. A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested.

  • Scarcity||

    No need to cede to Chad that pot has no medicinal use even if smoking were the only way to ingest it. A couple of the proposed medicinal uses are pain relief and nausea reduction in people with terminal illnesses. If you're dying a painful death, how immoral would you consider someone who tells you that you can't have your medicine because it might eventually cause cancer or emphysema?

    Put another way, what are the effects of taking naproxen sodium long term? There are some negative ones. Should people with chronic back pain be forced to suck it up so that we can protect them from themselves?

  • ||

    This is great news, but I'm not sure I quite understand. If the mandatory minimum is five years, how is he getting less than five years?

  • jpocali||

    Ok, of course smoking is dangerous, but by this logic we shouldn't be giving people chemotheropy either then should we? Do you really think that that asprin JUST kills your headache and goes away?

    There are no medical benefits to smoking medical pot? Who the F#$K are you to say that? Look my wife in her eyes and tell her that it doesn't keep her from spasming out of her chair you dolt! In 1971 the scientists said IUD's were safe too, but you don't see those very often anymore do you? Besides, 13 states in more resent times have determined that it DOES help those who are in pain.

    There are meds that do the same thing... great, I look forward to your $3,500 a MONTH to pay for my wife's (of course non-covered) drugs to keep her from becoming a living, breating doorstop with MS!

    You bastards with no ties to this come in here spouting off BS from god knows where telling me and others that this doesn't help. God, you are such little smarties aren't you? So sure in your convictions. Pray you don't get some disease (and no, MS is not aquired, it is inherited) and have to listen to morons like yourselves telling you how pot doesn't help your pain or your spasms. Self important busy-bodies! F each and every one of you worthless dinks.

  • jpocali||

    @ Chad....

    I am not a doctor, but I play one on reason.com.

  • ||

    Maybe it's time that the Schaefer Commission Report got a little attention.

    It doesn't say anything about medical MJ but it does put to rest just about all the other bullshit about the herb.

    Of course, that's why Nixon tried to suppress it. Oh, Trickie Dick, just so many reasons to hate.

  • ||

    Oh, at that link you will also find that in 1894 the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report a report on the perceived marijuana problem in India concluded:

    "Viewing the subject generally, it may be added that moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and that the excessive use is comparatively exceptional. The moderate use produces practically no ill effects."



    And that's from a bunch of uptight Victorians.

  • ||

    All the time he had to spend with that god damned tether on his foot should be counted against the sentence.

    The judge screwed up big time by refusing to let Lynch defend himself at trial. I'm not going to give him any slack for ONLY illegally imprisoning Lynch for a year.

    -jcr

  • zoltan||

    In 1971 the scientists said IUD's were safe too, but you don't see those very often anymore do you?

    Those are back now, don'cha know?

  • ||

    I don't believe in the efficacy of "medical marijuana.

    Reality doesn't care what you believe. Even if marijuana were a placebo like the water that the homeopaths sell, it's still the natural right of any person to decide for themselves whether to use it or not.

    -jcr

  • ||

    The law's the law.

    Perhaps you've heard of this thing called the "constitution"?

    It's the entire legal basis for the federal government's existence, and it doesn't grant them any power to conduct the war on drugs. It took an amendment to prohibit alcohol, and that mistake was repealed.

    Federal drug laws are unconstitutional, and if we had a justice system instead of a pretense at a justice system, those DEA agents who attacked Charlie Lynch and destroyed his business would be the ones doing time.

    -jcr

  • Gimlet||

    "Those are back now, don'cha know?"

    They've been significantly altered in order to prevent scarring and death.

  • ||

    If I put on a costume, kidnapped an innocent person, and threw them in my basement I'd be in some hot water. How can this goose-stepping sheriff and these DEA agents get away with this? When will this madness end?

  • Jay||

    Heres the real promblem in America Alochal and Tobacco. Alochal kills more people a yr then anything. Tobacco is known and has been proved to kill you any many ways. Not to Mention 2 hand smoke. Pot has never killed anyone ever. It helps people who are in need. California pass prop 215 in 1996. Mr Lynch DID not Violate State Law. The feds need to leave him and all other Clubs who are not breaking the State law alone says Eric Holder as well. Free Lynch

  • ||

    # NAL | June 12, 2009, 11:25am | #

    # Frankly, I don't understand why there are any
    # drugs that are medically illegal. I mean,
    # for crying out loud, they can legally pump
    # poison into you for cancer treatment
    # (chemotherapy) on the chance that it *might*
    # reduce the size of the tumors (and will,
    # with almost 100% certainty, make you sick,
    # weak, tired and bald), but they can't
    # prescribe a light hallucinogen (marijuana)
    # that will, with almost 100% certainty, make
    # you feel better and give you an appetite.

    If more people had common sense, along with the basic idea that government has a duty to respect and not interfere with people's decisions about their own lives, the argument above would carry the day.

    But we live in the real world, which operates on the principle of "because we say so," and resembles nothing so much as a lunatic asylum.

    I suggest that people who have common sense exercise their own "because we say so" rights, by kicking out all incumbents who have provided any support for the Drug War whatsoever. Even better, kick 'em all out to remind the politicians that they are EMPLOYEES and SERVANTS of the people; replace them with others who are dedicated to ending this lunatic "War." We're going to have to pursue this policy for the next two or three election cycles at least -- it's like taking a cycle of antibiotics: if you don't want the infection to come back, you can't quit in the middle of the cycle. So resolve to implement the "dump incumbents, dump the Drug War" policy now, and get a few friends and neighbors to join you! It appears as if only the people, acting together, can stop the lunacy, so we had better step up and do our part as the third major component of US government (the other two being the States and the Feds).

  • jpocali||

    The problem is that you have people who have no direct experience with something passing laws based on things they have been told.

    The problem is that they are told over and over again about their kids dying with needles in their arms in back allyways. Which, just for the record, if you are trying to inject MJ you are DOING IT WRONG. STOP NOW!

    The problem is that when there is someone willing to put their ass on the line in the government, they speak in vague terms of personal freedoms and constitutional blah blah blah. They should be speaking in terms of people's aging parents writhing in agony because the medication that makes them sick anyway is too expensive.

    The problem is that you get people who read things, and think that makes them experts on the subject. These people, most of whom have never seen a joint, then delight me with tales of what it does and doesn't do. Point to documents and studies supplied by governments and universities and try to convince me that my view is wrong.

    The problem is that my wife has MS and I see what it does to her. I see how the pot helps. We live this 24/7.

    The problem is that people want to debate and control and pontificate while my wife's life is very real and the relief is right there.

    The problem is that people aren't listening to the people who experience this first hand.

  • ||

    Call me stupid, but I thought Obama put a stop to these prosecutions?

  • ||

    All I can say is that I will continue to ignore this illegal law as I have for the last sixty years.

    Many better men than I have been thrown into the dungeon for refusing to obey bad law. When my turn comes I will serve my time with honor and dignity.

  • ||

    I thought Obama put a stop to these prosecutions?

    Nope. He promised to end them during the campaign, but all he delivered was a one-week hiatus.

    Barack Obama is the new hypocrite-in-chief of the United States.

    -jcr

  • ||

    The problem is that people aren't listening to the people who experience this first hand.

    Some of us do, my friend. Not enough, but the numbers are growing.

    -jcr

  • Atlas Bugged||

    Yeah, ditto. The War On Some Drugs is so vastly primitive, stunningly ignorant, counter-productive, openly immoral, and just plain evil, I have often considered what to do when the transition finally comes. Obviously a DEA agent is a burglar, robber, serial kidnapper, physical-torturer, and thief. Prosecutors, the same.

    Civilians do life for much less. And this vast pool of "authorities" can at least claim good intentions, though many are simply corrupt. There won't be a good choice when it all comes crumbling down.

    My least-worst solution: I believe in a 50% tax on every "warrior" involved - for life - everyone from the judges on down to the drug cops, with the proceeds to go to all victims.

    When the payors finally die off and the laws dissipate, there will at least be a smattering of justice in the end, the best we can probably hope for.

    You just cannot unring the bell. The victims deserve vast money judgments, and the victimizers deserve painful deaths. But this would be unrealistic, even if appropriate.

  • ||

    If Obama was really all about the change, he should have already pardoned Lynch. Since he hasn't, I;ll assume that he's the same old same old, except more so.

  • ||

    Defense attorney Reuven Cohen expects that his client will be among the last dispensary owners prosecuted in our nation's failed war on drugs. "I really think," says Cohen, "you're looking at, if not the last, then the penultimate or third to last medical marijuana dispensary prosecution in the United States...

    ==============
    When the Berlin Wall came down millions in America thought that we were on our way to seeing the end of communism.

    Now we have a Communist for a President and he is turning America into the Peoples Republic of America.

    Never is an awfully long time and I for one would never bet that what ever it is will never happen again in the future.

  • ||

    I think the way to get Charlie Lynch pardoned might be for someone to hack Obama's teleprompter. Of course, he has been known to ignore the promises he read off the screen during the campaign on a routine basis.

    -jcr

  • Pat||

    "I really think," says Cohen, "you're looking at, if not the last, then the penultimate or third to last medical marijuana dispensary prosecution in the United States....This is an injustice, and I think everyone has gotten the message."

    This man is delusional.

    There is no reason to believe this. NONE!

  • ||

    These neanderthals that use high school language to express their infantile disgust at existing drug laws, and laws in general, are usually the first to emit panicked cries for justice "under the law" when the issue hits closer to home - namely their pocketbook, their self interest, etc.

  • Abner MacGillicuddy||

    "Now we have a Communist for a President and he is turning America into the Peoples Republic of America."

    Wait, I thought he was one of them mooooslim fellers.

    Simple feller like me jus' can't keep these things straight.

    But does he still have a fake birth certificate? That's the impotent thing.

  • ||

    there is a call for legislation that would dictate a twenty-five year sentence for first time offenders. the offense would be possessing higher grade marijuana, or as the lake county sheriff incorrectly puts it "kush".

    http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2009/06/kirk-crusades-for-crackdown-on-strong-pot.html

  • ||

    The 'year and a day' guarantees he loses his rights to vote and to possess personal arms...yep, justice is sure served here...

  • what he said||

    fuck the goddamn law

  • John C. Randolph||

    The 'year and a day' guarantees he loses his rights to vote and to possess personal arms

    Not sure if you're right about political prisoners being denied the right to vote in California, but the second amendment is routinely ignored here already.

    -jcr

  • Tim White||

    @Jason

    If you are going to act like a constitutional scholar, at least get your facts right so you don't look like a complete idiot, although you already do. The Commerce Clause gives the power to regulate interstate commerce, not intrastate commerce. The marijuana wasn't being sold across state lines, so this doesn't qualify as interstate commerce. Get your facts right because your stupid argument is filled with fallacies. Mr. Lynch is a much better man than you and I pity your soul for wanting to imprison this poor man.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement