Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter last week broke his office's 13-month silence surrounding the federal raids of state-licensed medical marijuana business, but he didn't really say anything, just reviewed the facts: 25 Montanans have been indicted on federal drug charges and 12 have been sentenced. Cotter said we probably can expect more.
Two weeks ago, the feds reached another plea agreement, with Tom Daubert. The feds believed Daubert was not in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law, even though Daubert, a longtime lobbyist and founder of Patients and Families United, wrote the law.
That's one of the glaring and maddening problems here: The feds decide who was in compliance with the vague state law, but those indicted, federal judges have ruled, can't use the state law as a defense, because pot is illegal under federal law. Period.
And because these cases aren't going to triallike Daubert, other indicted Montanans are understandably agreeing to plea deals in order to salvage half their lives (just going to trial accelerates the penalties if you're ultimately found guilty)the feds' evidence never comes out, so it's never challenged.
Chris Lindsey, a husband, father and attorney who over the last several years has specialized in medical marijuana law, is about to buck that trend. He was indicted in February on an array of drug and gun charges relating to his association with Montana Cannabis. If you add up the sentences for the charges, Lindsey is facing up to almost 700 years in prison.
He says he'll refuse a plea deal; he'll take his case to trial.
"Unfortunately, there really isn't a way to give my side of the story outside of a jury trial situation," Lindsey says, "and I just think that that's got to be done ... We have a duty as Americans to fight laws that we think are unjust, and if the only way that I really have to fight is to go to jury trial, then that's the path that's been laid before me and one that I have to walk."