25,900 People Want Obama to Pardon a Medical Marijuana Provider Facing Life in Prison. Will He?

A few weeks from today, Montana medical marijuana provider Chris Williams will be sentenced on four counts of "using firearms in furtherance of a drug crime," due to the presence of guns at Montana Cannabis, the dispensary where Williams worked, and which the DEA shut down in 2011.

As Jacob Sullum explained last month, Williams, who has refused to plea bargain, will face a sentence of at least 80 years under federal mandatory minimum guidelines: 

Specifically, prosecutors charged Williams, after he turned down a series of plea deals, with four counts of using firearms in furtherance of a drug crime, based on pistols and shotguns kept at the Helena grow operation where he worked. Federal law prescribes a five-year mandatory minimum penalty for the first such offense and 25 years for each subsequent offense. Furthermore, the sentences must be served consecutively. Hence Williams, who was convicted of all four gun charges, will get at least 80 years when he is sentenced in January, even though he was not charged with wielding the guns, let alone hurting anyone with them. In fact, having the guns around would have been perfectly legal had he not been growing marijuana.

Because he has refused to plea bargain (an option that has netted Williams' coworkers sentences ranging from probation to five years), Williams has one hope left: a pardon from President Obama.

To obtain that pardon, Williams' supporters started a petition on We the People, a site maintained by the White House. According to the site's rules, a petition must garner 25,000 signatures within 30 days in order for the White House to respond. Today is day 30, and the petition calling for Williams' to be pardoned has 25,900 signatures.

The full text of the Williams petition reads as follows: 

Chris Williams is a Montana man who opened up a Medical Marijuana production facility after 62% of voters approved the law in his state. Chris William's operated his facility according to the law that was passed by Montana voters.

However, his facility was raided by the Federal Government in March of 2011, and he was charged for operating the grow facility.

Mr. Williams was convicted and is facing 80 years in prison. He has been offered numerous plea deals to reduce his sentence, but has refused them because he believes he has committed no crime.

Mr. William's sentence, a sentence that will take him away from his family for the rest of his life, is most certainly cruel and unusual.

We call on President Obama to review the facts of the case and grant Mr. Williams a full Pardon.

While the petition will likely draw more attention to Williams' case, it probably won't sway Obama, who is worse on pardons and commutations than any president in recent memory. In addition, We the People has several times shot down petitions calling for clemency and/or pardons, with this response

The President takes his constitutional power to grant clemency very seriously, and recommendations from the Department of Justice are carefully considered before decisions are made.  The White House does not comment, however, on individual pardon applications. In accordance with this policy and the We the People Terms of Participation–which explain that the White House may sometimes choose not to respond to petitions addressing certain matters—the White House declines to comment on the specific case addressed in this petition.

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.

  • BarryD||

    No.

    He won't lose sleep over it, either.

  • Almanian.||

    second

  • WWNGD?||

    Well that all depends, how much did the guy's family donate to Obama's campaign.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's a shame that this guy is going to have to watch from behind bars the next 20 years of the Federal government being dragged kicking and screaming into MJ liberalization.

  • deified||

    In 10 or 15 years, his commutation won't be controversial.

    Of course, he has a young son who he won't get to watch grow up.

    Damn.

  • mfc||

    How ironic that those who claim the title of "compassion" and "tolerance" so rarely ever exercise those qualities.

  • entropy||

    25,901.

    In my daydreams of being Governor of this shithole state, I just pardon all the (non-violent) drug offenders. And then they re-elect me so I can throw bureaucrats in the empty cells.

  • Hyperion||

    You have my vote, even if I have to bussed into your state to do it.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Then the feds would swoop in and prosecute them for the same crime.

  • romulox||

    Now here's a man that wouldn't scream "Do it to Julia!". I salute his bravery.

  • wingnutx||

    Well said.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...Williams has one hope left: a pardon from President Obama.

    Ouch. This president is not someone you want to pin your hopes on. In anything.

  • ||

    Will he?

    What BarryD said.

  • ||

    Specifically, prosecutors charged Williams, after he turned down a series of plea deals, with four counts of using firearms in furtherance of a drug crime, based on pistols and shotguns kept at the Helena grow operation where he worked.

    I wish I had something witty to say about this, but I'm too pissed off.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    Actually, 2 of the 4 gun charges are for guns kept hundreds of miles away from the town where Chris lived and worked. None of the guns were owned by Chris and he couldn't be linked to them by so much as a fingerprint. He was convicted of the firearms violations under the strict and unforgiving terms of "conspiracy" which allows defendants to be charged with "constructive possession" among other things.

  • nicole||

    Excellent EOD nutpunch, Riggs.

  • ||

    When this petition has only 5,000 more signatures than the petition to build the Death Star, you have to wonder if anyone takes these even remotely seriously.

  • Andrew S.||

    Well, the White House never took these things seriously from the beginning. Even when they've answered questions it's been condescending BS.

  • Mensan||

    25,900 People Want Obama to Pardon a Medical Marijuana Provider Facing Life in Prison. Will He?

    No.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is that Paul Krugman?

  • Hugh Akston||

    If it were Krugman he would be in the deli across from the courthouse yelling at the customers for not spending enough on their turkey wraps.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe he's going on a crime spree to stimulate the economy?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'd be willing to break the window of his office by pushing him out of it.

  • Andrew S.||

    See? SEE? Right wing rhetoric encouraging violence!!!!

    My dad is an unabashed liberal who thinks that Krugman should be the next Secretary of the Treasury. I told him that it was a horrible idea, partly because Krugman is an idiot, and partly because if Krugman got government power he'd probably have American cities bombed so we can reap the economic benefits of rebuilding. He didn't like the joke.

  • ||

    What joke? That's not a joke.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Don't tell him about Krugman's monthly ritual of getting drunk, dressing up like a space alien, and breaking into Ezra Klien's apartment to wreck up the place.

  • A Serious Man||

    I thought he dresses up like Ozymandias from Watchman--the ultimate Keyensian superhero!

  • Hugh Akston||

    He used to dress up like that for Halloween, but he tore his gold lamé tights in the bushes out behind Geithner's house.

  • Mensan||

    What joke?

  • Hyperion||

    Dear leader has green cronies to court and 3rd world dictators to bow to, no time for pardoning da peasants.

  • ||

    I mean, this guy expects a pardon without bribing the president in some way? What a maroon!

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    We're hoping to "bribe" him with signatures from 26,000+ people and the national spotlight that only publications like Reason Magazine, Huffington Post, AlterNet and the New York Times can bring! Delusional? Maybe. But we had to try something to FREE CHRIS WILLIAMS!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    A naive person would think that, at a time when Presidents are flamboyantly exercising their executive powers, even stretching the Constitution to do it, they would jump at the chance to exercise their clear power to grant pardons. What a way to be an Energetic Executive (TM)!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm surprised that "soft on crime" or "soft on terrorists" or "soft on commies" business isn't used more often, given the absolute terror it seems to have for politicians.

    Obama. Soft on pardons.

  • ||

    "Soft on being soft."

  • Pro Libertate||

    Soft on softness. Weak on weakness. Can America afford more of this?

  • nicole||

    The relevant question is, can we meta-afford it?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Obscure on obscurity.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Taut on tautologies.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Lame on lameness.

  • Ted S.||

    The politics of failure have failed. We must make them work again.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    Great suggestion!

  • CE||

    When not buying something = commerce, it stands to reason that not using your guns = using your guns, and providing medicine under state law = committing a drug crime.

  • ShagNasty||

    Yeah the defenition of "using firearms in furtherance of a drug crime" is the part of this story that bother's me the most. I have a friend who's apartment was raided recently. The cops seized about 0.25g of weed ($2.50 worth for those who don't know), his vast collection of pipes, bongs, and state-of-the-art vaporizers (approx $15,000-$30,000 value), and a pen tube with residue from smoking heroin in it. Luckily they didn't find his .45 caliber handgun. I wonder how fucked he would have been had they found that. Interestingly enough, the raid was almost a year ago and he still has yet to be charged. Hasn't had a single court date.

  • General Butt Naked||

    They'd use the gun to get a plea for intent to distribute on that tiny bit of weed.

    Had a friend that got busted with a small amount but had a rifle at his house (informant told cops he was a dealer). They threatened 5 years on the gun, but offered him 6 months-1year for felony intent. He took it as he couldn't afford an attourney. No money, no justice.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Impossible! Dunphy says that nobody ever goes to jail for MJ possession.

  • ||

    Where was this? They were obviously after the smoking/vaping equipment, cause they get to asset forfeiture that shit.

  • ShagNasty||

    This was in eastern WA. I don't think they were after his peice collection. He has a couple prior midemeanor drug charges, and about 25-30 moving violations over the last 2 years so I wouldn't be suprised if he's been pulled over by every cop in town at least once. A cop saw him sitting in his parked car in an empty lot late at night, obviously waiting for drugs. Cop pulled up, asked him a million questions, trying to get him to say something stupid. He doesn't, so the cop leaves. Same cop walks up to his apartment door a few days later, "smells marijuana" acquires warrant, and they raid the place the next day. Funny thing is, my buddy hadn't smoked in his apt. for a couple days when the cop got the warrant, so he was obviously full of shit.

  • ShagNasty||

    We theorized that they haven't charged him yet cause of that court case about the smelling pot outside a residence issue. Has that one been decided yet? I know now that 502 has passed they wouldn't charge him for the weed or pipes, but you'd think they would want to charge him for the heroin tube, since narcotics paraphinalia is a felony.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    Tell your buddy to watch out! Chris wasn't indicted until about a year after the raids and he wasn't prosecuted until 18 months later. In the meantime, multiple associates became cooperating witnesses and gave evidence to the DEA, FBI and ATF in exchange for immunity or lighter sentences. Typical federal case.

  • np||

    Anyone else getting popup/popunder ads starting today on Reason? (well, assuming you don't use Adblock+, NoScript, etc)

    As of 12/12 I am getting occasional popup ads in the background, some pointing to http://engine.4dsply.com/...

    I have used a linux machine that I hardly browse with and again, the same thing happened just today upon visiting http://reason.com/blog for the first time on that machine as well.

  • Andrew S.||

    I'm not seeing it, and I'm browsing Reason from work using IE8.

  • Mensan||

    Nothing here, and I'm just running Firefox 17.0.1 with no additional blockers.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm getting them on FF 17.

  • nicole||

    I am, and I was very, very confused.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Confused on confusion.

  • ||

    Would you say you're in a Land of Confusion, nicole?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I thought you were anti-Collins?

  • ||

    I'M CONTINUING A THEME.

  • Pro Libertate||

    So you like Phil Collins?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Wait, I thought I saw a movie once about Episiarch where he had this long diatribe about Genesis and Phil Collins. What changed?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I dunno, I guess he loves Phil Collins Genesis now.

  • ||

    This is all just a Misunderstanding!

  • Ted S.||

    You should have made no reply at all.

  • ||

    Phil Collins is the anti-Christ.

    Pure unadulterated evil.

  • Ted S.||

    Nothing here; using Opera.

  • A Serious Man||

    This is why we need jury nullification. All it would have taken was for one Montana citizen on the jury to not vote to convict and boom, hung jury.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We need government nullification.

  • General Butt Naked||

    We don't need a hung jury, we need a hanged prosecutor.

  • John C. Randolph||

    I would settle for tar and feathers.

    -jcr

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I went through that a couple of months ago. You have to answer whether you will follow the judge's instructions to the letter on your questionnaire, and if you say no they will question it during voir dire.

    So unless you discover jury nullification during the trial, you're not getting on the jury without lying about it.

    I don't believe in JN so it wasn't an issue for me.

  • np||

    The issue that it's illegal in most cases to even mention it in court.

  • John C. Randolph||

    You have to answer whether you will follow the judge's instructions to the letter on your questionnaire

    "If and only if the judges instructions follow the law, and are in accord with my conscience. After all, the entire purpose of a jury is to directly exercise the sovereign power of the people to see justice done, and as a juror my duty is to justice, not to the state."

    -jcr

  • Fatty Bolger||

    you're not getting on the jury without lying about it.

    Not really, you just have to think like a lawyer. Letter of the law? Not a problem. Penaltax, commerce clause, throwing out Michigan's affirmative action ban, whatever you need, a way can be found to do it to the "letter of the law." Yes, I would promise to follow the judge's instructions to the letter - but how I interpret those instructions is up to me.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    That's all it would have taken, but unfortunately, those on Chris's jury were in lockstep with the Judge's carefully-crafted instructions to ignore State law and only consider Federal law. It would be interesting to know if their opinions are different, now that they know the kind of prison term that is at stake. It's hard to believe that anyone truly thinks locking Chris up for 90 years is a good use of taxpayer dollars.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Anyone else getting popup/popunder ads starting today on Reason?

    YES. And it's PISSING ME OFF. It's really bad right now.

    Puppy Linux/ Seamonkey. Not exactly a high volume setup.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    All it would have taken was for one Montana citizen on the jury to not vote to convict and boom, hung jury.

    Which is why the prosecutors made a huge deal out of keeping any references to state laws out of their federal trial.

    Fucking scumbags.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    exactly. unfortunate, but true.

  • db||

    Was the petition drive mentioned on reason before now? It would have been nice to have heard about it, you know, before the deadline.

  • ||

    If you click the banner you can still donate.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ass-kisser.

  • ||

    Butt-muncher.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Collins-lover.

  • ||

    This from the guy whose favorite band of all time is Winger.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Who?

  • ||

    Don't play dumb with me, ProL. Well, not dumber than usual.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I've heard of Winger, of course. An Officer and a Gentleman.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    The petition is still accepting signatures as of 10 minutes ago, even though the deadline has passed on the East Coast. Please sign and share, just in case! : )

  • Brandon||

    I have a hunch that his preening, muddled, self-serving response of a semi-comprehensible "no" will be released late on a friday afternoon to no fanfare, after which he will give himself another award for transparency and empathy.

  • Sevo||

    OT, but I didn't see any notice of the latest Nobel Peace Prize.
    It was awarded to the Euro-Bureaucrats since Europe hasn't started a world war or massacred millions of innocents in the last 60 years. Media-whore celebs rejoice:
    http://www.eurweb.com/2012/12/.....-ceremony/

  • np||

    Google.com now 'censors' explicit content from image searches

    This is currently limited to the US. The reporting is also a bit wrong regarding it being limited to SafeSearch. Basically, you can't turn SafeSearch completely off using google's US site.

    Try it out for yourself:
    - disable SafeSearch in your settings
    - search for "blowjob" in web search or image search
    - search for "blowjob oral sex" .... still nothing

    compare results to google.nl or google.co.uk, et al

  • Pro Libertate||

    Why would they want to cut their traffic in half like that?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Weird. If you try searching "mouth fucking" you get what you'd expect from "blowjob" though.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Jhon H. Galt does Google have a lot to learn about product design.

  • A Serious Man||

    So will people by migrating to Bing now to satisfy their fetishes?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    That's it, I'm switching back to Lycos.

  • waaminn||

    Sounds like the dude should be pardoned, I mean like for sure.

    www.AnonSurfit.tk

  • Big 'Orra||

    Both the left and the right have their own ideas about who the government victimizes, yet when they gain the power to do something abut it?????

    You'd figure there would be a few hundred cases a year that were no-brainers ... what about power makes those who hold it complete jerks and lose their humanity?

  • Disgusted Dem||

    If I had to place a bet on it, I would bet against Obama issuing a pardon. This is the president who has been more than happy to have the DOJ act as the enforcers for the movie industry. And with Obama needing the continued support of the pharmaceutical industry for ACA, he's going to do everything to please them and keep up the drug war against marijuana.

  • FreeChrisWIlliams||

    Thank you to Reason Magazine for sharing Chris Williams's story! PLEASE cover his sentencing on January 4th, 2013. As of right now, he is scheduled to be sentenced on the same date and time, by the same Judge as his co-conspirator and Montana Cannabis co-owner Chris Lindsey. As part of a plea bargain - Lindsey pleaded guilty, testified against Williams at trial and prosecutors have since recommended probation. Currently, Lindsey is President of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association and a trial lawyer who is still accepting clients, even in the midst of a federal indictment. Meanwhile, Williams (who is an equally culpable business partner of Lindsey) is behind bars facing a 90-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. The biggest difference between the two cases is that Williams exercised his Constitutional right to a trial and Lindsey pleaded guilty. Lindsey is highly-educated and well-connected. Williams has a high school diploma and grew up in a rural area with no indoor plumbing. Sentencing disparities like this are the height of injustice! Rarely are they illustrated so clearly as two co-conspirators being sentenced by the same Judge on the same day - one to probation and one to a life-equivalent prison term. PERFECT CASE FOR REASON TO INVESTIGATE!

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  • cinsel chat||

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