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Monday, 14 January 2013 10:50

Department of Justice Is Ruining Lives and Wasting Taxpayer Money Prosecuting Marijuana Cases in Legalized States

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT                                   pot114

Matthew R. Davies is 34 and married with two daughters. He runs a business that reportedly meticulously complies with California regulations and laws.  He pays his taxes, providing much needed revenue to the government, and heads a transparent operation that is highly visible and meets a need.

In a New York Times (NYT) article, one of his former staff gushed over Davies's considerate treatment of his employees:

Stephanie Horton, 25, who went to work for Mr. Davies after going to one of his dispensaries to obtain medical marijuana to help her deal with ovarian and cervical cancer, said she was devastated by the arrest of employers she described as among the best she had ever had — not to mention the loss of her job.

“I’d go back and work there in a heartbeat,” Ms. Horton said. “I totally trusted them. We’re not criminals. I’ve never been arrested my whole life. I need that medication, and so do a whole lot of people.”

Now, because he refuses to accept a 5-year sentence in a federal prison for operating a medical marijuana dispensary and growing marijuana plants -- as part of a plea bargain with the Department of Justice (DOJ) -- he faces a trial and, if convicted of violating federal law (even though he is in full compliance with California law), could serve a long stretch in jail.

Although Davies is not breaking any California state laws, an Obama-appointed US Attorney is throwing the book at him: “Mr. Davies is being prosecuted for serious felony offenses,” the US attorney for the Eastern District of California, Benjamin B. Wagner, wrote to Mr. Davies’s lawyers, according to The NYT. “I understand he is facing unpleasant alternatives. Neither a meeting with me nor seeking a review in Washington will change that reality.”

This is the latest Obama DOJ cruel and wasteful prosecution of medical marijuana cases, given that the voters of various states have made such activity legal in their jurisdictions.  Furthermore, as BuzzFlash at Truthout noted in a commentary on December 10, the DOJ is now considering how to challenge recently passed laws in Colorado and Washington State legalizing the recreational use of marijuana:

The shark teeth writing of Charles P. Pierce got its jaws-like grip into the Obama administration for its inexplicable continuing crackdown on state and municipal laws legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use:  

If nothing else, the results [of ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana use]  in Colorado and in Washington State — and, to a lesser extent, in Massachusetts — indicate that the political salience of the "war on drugs," as applied to marijuana, at least, almost has completely evaporated. It can be argued that there is no more political risk to the president of changing his policy on marijuana now than there was in his "evolving" on gay marriage last year. In both cases, the people out in the states are out ahead of the national politics of the issue.

However egregiously misguided the Obama administration stance is in terms of aggressively prosecuting – on a federal level -- legal marijuana sales and use in states that allow it, the damage being done by such harsh and punitive actions is most plaintive when distilled into the devastating impact on a single individual.

Davies's wife, Molly, wrote an eloquent plea to President Obama, posted on the Huffington Post, in which she asks the president:

I am writing to you as a wife and mother of two young daughters, whose 34-year old husband, Matthew Davies, faces 10 years or more in federal prison for providing medical marijuana to sick people in California, even though he complied with state law concerning medicinal cannabis. My questions to you are simple:

What has my husband done that would justify the federal government forcing my young daughters to grow up without a father?

How can your Administration ignore the will of the California people and prosecute this good, law-abiding man for doing exactly what state law permits?

Mr. President, my husband is not a criminal and shouldn't be treated like one. Matt is not a drug dealer or trafficker. He's not driving around in a fancy car and living in some plush mansion--trust me. My husband is a regular guy, and we're a regular, middle-class family. Yet even though Matt took great pains to follow state and local law, he is currently facing a severe prison sentence. This all seems so surreal.

Both surreal and prosecutorial excess it is indeed.

As Molly Davies adds in her letter to Obama:

We would have never gone down this road had we thought for a moment that the federal government would prosecute Matt for running a completely above-board operation that is perfectly legal where we live. Nothing is worth Matt's liberty. And I cannot even bear to think of our daughters growing up without their father. This is a nightmare.

This exercise in Kafkaesque overreach is destroying the lives of real people -- not to mention the cost that well exceeds $20,000 a year in taxpayer money for incarcerating Davies, should it come to that.

The US justice system long ago failed millions of Americans who have spent years in state and federal prison for marijuana violations.  Now that marijuana use is legal to varying degrees in a growing number of states, it is cruelly pointless to swaggeringly make a legal farce out of sweeping down from DC with legal charges that represent a grave injustice.

As Molly Davies wrote to the president, "We are confused and absolutely terrified."

So should all of us be at outrages such as this.

(Photo: Thivierr)