According to a new report from California NORML, "over 335 defendants have been charged with federal crimes related to medical marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws." Despite Barack Obama's promises of prosecutorial restraint in this area, "153 medical marijuana cases have been brought in the 4¼ years of the Obama administration, nearly as many as under the 8 years of the Bush administration (163)." In other words, Obama is averaging 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year, compared to 20 a year under his predecessor. And although Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly claimed the Justice Department is not targeting suppliers who comply with state law, "the DOJ has targeted many facilities that were in full compliance with local laws and regulations."
The overwhelming majority of these cases, 259, involve California dispensaries. California NORML also counts at least 31 cases in Montana, 15 in Nevada, 12 in Michigan, 10 in Washington, six in Oregon, and two in Colorado. Nine out of 10 cases concluded so far have resulted in convictions, with 158 defendants receiving prison sentences totaling more than 480 years. About 50 are in federal prison right now, while others await sentencing or have been sentenced but have not begun serving their time yet.
Yesterday Americans for Safe Access released a report that puts the price tag for these prosecutions at $500 million. "Far outspending all of his predecessors," it says, "President Obama has dedicated nearly $300 million to such enforcement efforts, despite his repeated pledges to not use Justice Department funds in this way."
And who are these dangerous characters the feds are spending your tax dollars to put behind bars? This description from California NORML gives you an idea:
One seriously ill defendant, Richard Flor, has died while in federal prison, and two others, Peter McWilliams and Steve McWilliams (no relation) died while being denied access to medical marijuana on bail. Other seriously ill patients who have who have been sentenced to lengthy terms include Dale Schafer, a hemophiliac currently serving 5 years along with his wife Mollie Fry, a cancer patient (pictured above); Vernon Rylee, who served nearly 5 years in a wheelchair (pictured right), and Jerry Duval.
More details on federal medical marijuana defendants here.