Will Charlie Lynch Avoid Prison For Legally Operating a Medical Marijuana Dispensary?


On April 23, 2009 a federal judge postponed the sentencing of Charlie Lynch, the man at the center of the nation's debate over medical marijuana. Lynch operated a medical marijuana dispensary that was completely legal under California law.

His business was raided by federal agents in 2007 and last year he was found guilty in federal court of distributing marijuana.

The judge signaled that, if possible, he wanted to find a way to avoid the five-year mandatory minimum sentence proscribed by law.

"To be blunt, if I could find a way out, I would," said U.S. District Judge George H. Wu.

At the hearing, Wu heard from several character witnesses, including Owen Beck, a former patient of Lynch. Beck's parents obtained medical marijuana when he was battling bone cancer at age 17. During the trial, Beck briefly took the stand, but his testimony was cut short by Wu. Steve Beck, Owen's father, told Wu that "Lynch did not make much money off of us," noting that Lynch provided them with medical marijuana "for free or at a very deep discount." Steve Beck questioned "how the incarceration of Charlie Lynch would benefit society."

Also among the character witnesses were Tom Lynch, brother of Charlie, and officials from Morro Bay, California, where Lynch's dispensary was located.

The courtroom was filled to capacity, and toward the end of the hearing roughly 90 percent of those in attendance stood up in a silent sign of support for Lynch. They remained standing for approximately 15 minutes.

Wu scheduled the next and final hearing for June 11.

In this video update, we hear from Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters, Morro Bay City Attorney Robert Schultz, Tom Lynch, Lynch defense attorney Reuven Cohen, and Charlie Lynch.

Approximately 4 minutes. Produced by Ted Balaker; shot by Paul Detrick.

For's complete coverage of the Lynch saga, go to