Obama Intensifies War against Marijuana . . . The Matthew Davies Case

Monday, January 21, 2013
Matthew Davies

President Barack Obama, an admitted former pot smoker, told a national television audience last month that he had “bigger fish to fry” than going after marijuana users in states where it is legal.

He did not mention Matthew R. Davies or Aaron Sandusky by name.

Sandusky was sentenced by a federal judge to 10 years in prison on January 7 for running three medical marijuana dispensaries in the Inland Empire, G3 Holistics, that were deemed legal by the state, and Davies is looking at 15 years to life for the same infraction.

The U.S. Department of Justice is going after Davies, a 34-year-old entrepreneur with no prior criminal record, for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in Sacramento and Stockton. Davies’ partner, Lynn Farrell Smith, pleaded guilty in Sacramento federal court on Friday as part of a plea bargain that could result in a 5-year sentence. Davies appeared, but did not plead.

While federal law criminalizes possession and sale of pot, California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and authorized nonprofit cooperatives as dispensaries in 2004. The federal government was content to let California roll out its pot shops statewide without interference until the end of 2011 when the four U.S. Attorneys representing the Department of Justice began shutting some of them down and arresting their owners. Sandusky and Davies were among the few owners to fight back.

No reconciliation of state and federal policies appears near as courts, legislatures and chief executives give conflicting government signals to the public.

Critics of the Obama administration say the case against Davies is yet another example of the federal government wrongly going after medical marijuana operations that have abided by state law.

Davies started his business, Medizen, three years ago and quickly made it into an $8 million enterprise. He says he carefully followed all state laws in setting up his dispensary. But Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, claims Davies has trafficked a controlled substances outlawed by federal statute.

Davies’ wife, Mollie, wrote a letter to Obama that was publicized last week that the president shouldn’t be chasing after a “regular guy” with a “regular, middle-class family” who adhered strictly to California law and “believed that he was doing a good thing.”

“To be looking at 15 years of our life, you couldn’t pay me enough to give that up,” Davies told The New York Times. “If I had believed for a minute this would happen, I would never have gotten into this.”

–Noel Brinkerhoff and Ken Broder


To Learn More:

In California, It’s U.S. vs. State Over Marijuana (by Adam Nagourney, New York Times)

Matthew Davies' Wife Asks Obama To End Family's 'Nightmare,' Drop Medical Marijuana Case (by Ryan Reilly, Huffington Post)

Three Stockton Men Indicted On Large Warehouse Marijuana Growing Operation (U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern California)

Guilty Plea in Medical Marijuana Case that Pits Federal vs. Local (by Sam Cohen, Fox)

Marijuana-Dispensary Court Ruling Stands (by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle)

Matthew Davies Facing Fifteen Years in Federal Prison for Stockton Dispensary (by David Downs, East Bay Express)

A Letter to the President (by Molly Davies, Huffington Post)

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Gets 10 Years in Prison (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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