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

Because he has refused to plea bargain, Chris Williams has one hope left: a pardon from President Obama.


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.