Should Charlie Lynch Spend the Rest of His Life in Jail, Or Even a Single Day, For Operating a Legal Medical Marijuana Dispensary?


The sentencing of Morro Bay, California medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch has been delayed yet again, this time until June 11. According to Reason.tv producer Ted Balaker, who has followed the Lynch saga from its start, the mood in the courtroom was guardedly optimistic, especially as Judge George H. Wu openly expressed his sympathy for Lynch.

"To be blunt, if I could find a way out, I would," said Wu, referring to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that insist Lynch get at least five years in prison. However, Wu summarily dismissed the notion of disregarding the guidelines, claiming it would simply be a "monumental waste of time" because such a decision would be overruled by a higher court. Reason.tv will post a video of today's proceedings soon. In the meantime, you can follow the case at Lynch's website, online here.

Charlie Lynch is a California resident who owned and operated a medical marijuana dispensary that was fully legal under a Golden State law.

In 2007, federal agents and San Luis Obispo sheriffs raided his home and dispensary and in 2008 he was found guilty in federal court of five counts of distributing drugs.

Because he was tried in a federal court, Lynch's defense team was not allowed to argue that its client was fully complying with state law.

On Thursday, April 23, 2009, Lynch is scheduled to be sentenced. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and, despite some positive statements from the Obama administration's Justice Department about respecting state laws regarding medical marijuana, Lynch's future is darker than midnight. Indeed, the simple letter of the law dictates he go to prison.

The polite term for Lynch's predicament is Kafkaesque. He is a guiltless man who genuinely helped the sick in his community and is being punished for caring. Now he faces at least five years-and potentially much more-in one of the most sickening and barbaric displays of how the drug war is carpet-bombing huge swaths of American life. Indeed, to call Lynch's plight Kafkaesque is to hide the brutality of America's longest-running and most-destructive war behind an aesthetically comforting phrase.

Charlie Lynch's life has been destroyed by policies and priorities so idiotic and corrosive that they create or exacerbate every negative outcome they purport to address. It is the logic of bombing the village in order to save it raised to an exponential degree and all Americans who believe in the smallest doses of freedom, compassion, rule of law, personal autonomy, and federalism should bear witness to the horror of what has already happened and will likely be made still worse on April 23.

Reason has been following Lynch's story since it began. Below is a chronology and selected bibliography of our print and video coverage of Lynch and the monsters who have prosecuted him like some warped Inspector Javert.

We will be reporting live here on April 23, as soon as the Lynch verdict is announced.

Charles Lynch Chronology

April 1, 2006 … In accordance with state and local law, Charlie Lynch opens Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, California.

March 29, 2007 … Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff deputies raid Lynch's home and dispensary.

April 7, 2007 … Lynch reopens his dispensary with the blessing of the City of Morro Bay.

April 14, 2007 … The DEA threatens Lynch's landlord with forfeiture unless he evicts the dispensary.

July 17, 2007 … Federal agents arrest Charlie Lynch, and charge him with violating federal drug laws. Lynch spends three nights in a federal detention center before being released on $400,000 bail. Lynch is confined to home detention and monitored by federal agents.

June 10, 2008 … Reason.tv exposes a national audience to the Lynch saga with the documentary short Raiding California: Medical Marijuana and Minors.

July 28, 2008 … Reason covers day one of U.S. vs. Charles C. Lynch: Entrapment? Lynch Trial Update

July 29, 2008Silencing Owen: Lynch Trial Video Update

"Jesse Baldridge": Lynch Trial Update

July 30, 2008Earthquake in the Courtroom: Lynch Trial Update

July 31, 2008Charlie Takes the Stand: Lynch Trial Update

August 1, 2008Lynch Checked with DEA Before Opening Dispensary: Lynch Trial Update

August 2, 2008The Penultimate Day: Lynch Trial Update

August 4, 2008Waiting for the Jury: Lynch Trial Video Update

Charlie's Fate in Jury's Hands: Lynch Trial Update

August 5, 2008GUILTY: Lynch Trial Video Update (includes exclusive interview with jury foreperson)

Charlie Lynch Found Guilty in Gross Miscarriage of Justice

October 6, 2008Free Charlie Lynch Rally: Video Update

November 2008Medical marijuana makes conservatives forget federalism

March 23, 2009Fate on Hold: Will Charlie Lynch Spend Decades in Jail? (Video Update)

March 25, 2009Will the Justice Department's new medical marijuana policy save Charlie Lynch?

April 20, 2009Obama's DOJ Won't Intervene in Charlie Lynch Case