The federal government has prosecuted more than 70 medical marijuana marijuana patients and providers since President Obama took office, according to Americans for Safe Access. Dispensary owner Aaron Sandusky, whom Reason TV has profiled here and here, can be added to that tally tomorrow morning when his trial begins in a downtown Los Angeles U.S. District Court.
While five others were arrested in connection with G3 Holistic—Sandusky's Upland, California operation—the other defendants have all pled out and may end up testifying against Sandusky in the trial. But Sandusky, who faces six counts of drug trafficking, earlier this year told Reason TV in the video below that he won't back down and views his legal fight as a Constitutional battle.
I spoke to Sandusky's lawyer, Roger Diamond, this morning, and he says that he's had to change his legal strategy several times. Diamond filed a 50-page motion to dismiss last week on the grounds that Upland city officials were using the federal government to circumvent California's legal system. After all, the latest DEA raid of Sandusky's business came a day before a lawsuit Sandusky had filed against Upland was to be heard by the California Court of Appeals. In the preceding months, Sandusky and the broader medical marijuana movement had a string of legal successes, including a promising case that made it all the way to the California Supreme Court. Diamond has documents he says prove that frustrated Upland officials called in the Feds for backup, which he argues amounts to an arbitrary use of federal power and is therefore unconstitutional. This line of argument didn't get him far.
"The judge took the bench and just said, 'motion denied,'" says Diamond.
Diamond's new legal approach is in some ways more interesting, though perhaps equally challenging. He intends to make an entrapment case against the federal government. He hopes to introduce this 2008 video of Eric Holder into evidence and argue that the Obama administration clearly signaled that it would no longer prosecute medical marijuana sellers operating within state law.
In addition, Diamond wants to introduce a 2009 memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that directed DOJ officials not to focus federal resources on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the use of medical marijuana."And finally, he hopes to use this video of FBI agents visiting Sandusky's store to help prove that when Sandusky cooperated with the Feds on a successful corruption investigation of Upland's mayor, they assured him that the federal government was not interested in his marijuana-related activities, thus giving him the greenlight to keep on growing and selling without fear of federal prosecution.
Diamond believes he could make a strong entrapment case, but he is skeptical about the willingness of Judge Percy Anderson to let him make that case.
"It's a very difficult situation if the judge won't allow much of our case into evidence," says Diamond.
While similar cases tend to see convictions averaging 5- to 10-year prison sentences, Aaron Sandusky, the last man standing in this case, could technically face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life if convicted by a federal government that wins drug cases 93% of the time.
Sandusky has set up a legal defense fund. Go here for more information. See below for a video that highlights the Obama administration's hypocrisy on the medical marijuana issue and features Sandusky before he was raided by the DEA.