Medical Marijuana Appeal Rejected, Aaron Sandusky Faces Nine More Years

Three judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected the appeal of Aaron Sandusky, the California man sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for selling medical marijuana in a state where such activity is completely legal. Reason has covered the Sandusky case extensively here

The three-judge panel opted not to hear oral arguments but rejected each of the legal arguments submitted in Sandusky's brief. Their five-page decision is available here.

In short, the appeals court ruled that the judge acted properly in prohibiting Sandusky from mentioning in his trial that medical marijuana was legal in California and that the attorney general, deputy attorney general, and the president of the United States himself stated that enforcement against legal dispensaries would not be a priority.

Sandusky's lawyers had attempted an "entrapment by estoppel" defense during the original trial, meaning they hoped to argue that statements made personally to him by FBI agents, and publicly by the Department of Justice and President Obama, led him to reasonably conclude that opening and operating a medical marijuana dispensary would not subject him to federal prosecution. The judge in that case prohibited Sandusky from making this argument, and the appeals court upheld that decision, concluding that "no authorized government official ever affirmatively told Sandusky that his marijuana operations were permissible" [italics added].

The court also rejected Sandusky's constitutional argument that the federal government lacked the power under the commerce clause and the 10th Amendment to prosecute someone operating within state law. Here, the court simply cited the Raich v. Gonzales case, wherein the Supreme Court concluded that the ever-expansive commerce clause authorizes the federal government to prohibit the growth of medical marijuana in one's home even absent an intention to ever sell it.

Other rejected arguments included claims that Sandusky was the subject of "vindictive or selective prosecution" and that the court imposed a mandatory minimum sentence in the face of insufficient evidence and inappropriately excused jurors who might be sympathetic to jury nullification.

Sandusky has served a little more than a year of his 10-year sentence, which he is serving in Big Spring, Texas, far away from any friends and family.

"Aaron is having  tough time with all of this right now especially with all the new developments going on in Colorado," his girlfriend Darlene Buenrostro said in an email. "He doesn't understand how he can be sitting in prison for something that was legal within his state's law, and Colorado is booming the way it is with their state laws, but yet the federal government is not taking action the way they did to him."

In the wake of the historic law changes in Colorado and Washington, with the public on the side of legalization, and the feds taking a wait-and-see approach, will Obama free the legal marijuana distributors he's already imprisoned? When his administration has prosecuted 80 percent more medical marijuana cases than his predecessor's—and yet another California dispensary worker was thrown in jail just two weeks ago—optimism begins to look a lot like credulity.

Sandusky will appeal to have his case heard en banc in the 9th Circuit and, failing that, hopes for a trip to the Supreme Court. He has a legal defense fund here.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the appeals court upheld that decision, concluding that "no authorized government official ever affirmatively told Sandusky that his marijuana operations were permissible" [italics added].

    No bureaucrat, even those with guns, are going to take responsibility for what they say. He should have known that.

  • Mainer2||

    Face it man, you fucked up....you trusted us.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why doesn't he use the Chewbacca defense?

  • Matrix||

    Progtard: The Commerce Clause-is there anything this wonderful and magical constitutional clause cannot do?

  • Acosmist||

    In what sense was it legal?

  • Jordan||

    The Constitution is the highest law of the land.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "He doesn't understand how he can be sitting in prison for something that was legal within his state's law, and Colorado is booming the way it is with their state laws, but yet the federal government is not taking action the way they did to him."

    Sucker.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Holy shit, a comment went through.

  • Loki||

    In the wake of the historic law changes in Colorado and Washington ... and the feds taking a wait-and-see approach

    Does anyone have a bad feeling about this? Like maybe the feds are just biding their time until they get enough big fish on the line and then they're going to crack down really fucking hard? Because FYTW.

    "IT'S A TRAP!" - Adm. Ackbar

  • Loki||

    OT: Now I can post comments, but the comment doesn't show up at first until I reload the page. What fresh squirrel fuckery is this?

  • Matrix||

    It does that sometimes.

  • Another David||

    I feel for the guy, but I really hope he doesn't get this before the Supreme Court. There's a much better chance that they'd strike down all state legalization schemes than that they'd take so much as a day off his sentence.

  • KPres||

    How could they do that? Doesn't legalization imply that you're removing a law? How do you strike down a law that doesn't exist?

  • Another David||

    The logic I'm imagining goes like this: The state laws don't just strike down old bans, they establish new licensing schemes under which pot stores are explicitly allowed by the states. But it's contradictory to have a state-sanctioned pot store when there's a blanket ban on the sale and possession of pot. Thus, the federal law (Controlled Substances Act) and the state tax-and-regulate schemes are in conflict, and the federal law controls because COMMERCE CLAUSE, BITCHES!

  • Jaybirdmojo||

    "the appeals court ruled that the judge acted properly in prohibiting Sandusky from mentioning..." blah blah blah.

    How is this not an example of the judge and prosecution colluding to withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense?

    How is this compatible with "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth"?

  • Whahappan?||

    It's not compatible with truth or justice, but perfectly compatible with our legal system.

  • Sirstan51||

    con·spir·a·cy Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.

    Is the state that accepts the profits (taxes) from this "illegal" act not party to prosecution? How does the state not be held accountable for their role?

    If I were to profit directly from your illegal activity that I essentially permit/harbor/endorse, would I not be held accountable?

    In short, the state gets that tax dollars and Aaron does the time. Is the state guilty too? Or is Aaron innocent?

    I was with Aaron several times while he spoke on the phone with his Board Of Equalization representative talking about tax payments. The state used him as a revenue source, then dismissed him as a criminal once he was charged by the federal government.

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