Helena, MT—(ENEWSPF)–November 8, 2012 — On September 27th, Chris Williams, co-founder of Montana Cannabis, was found guilty on eight counts of marijuana and related firearms charges, despite Montana’s medical marijuana law. These charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of more than 80 years in prison – and expose the grave human consequences resulting from the existing disparity between federal and state medical marijuana laws.
William’s story is the focus of a newly released New York Times Op-Docs video http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/opinion/the-fight-over-medical-marijuana.html by Rebecca Richman Cohen, a filmmaker and lecturer at Harvard Law School. Produced as an epilogue to her new, critically acclaimed medical marijuana documentary, Code of the West, Chris Williams story resonates as an urgent and timely call to action to address these legal inconsistencies – as an increasing number of states move to legalize both medical and non-medical use of marijuana.
In March 2011, federal agents raided Williams’ growhouse during a statewide crackdown across Montana. In spite of a 2004 voter referendum legalizing medical marijuana in Montana, supported by 62% of the voters, Montana cannot stop the federal government from enforcing its own laws. The Controlled Substances Act considers marijuana as a schedule I narcotic (along with heroin), which classifies it as having no legitimate medical use.
At his trial, Williams was prevented from using his compliance with state law as a defense to the federal charges, so the jury heard a deeply distorted an incomplete version of his story. Williams was convicted on eight count related to marijuana and for possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense – charges which carry mandatory minimum sentences of more than 80 years.
His other business partners, Richard Flor, Tom Daubert and Chris Lindsey, all accepted plea-bargains. Flor suffered a tragic outcome. After being sentenced in April to 5 years, he died in federal custody during a prison transfer in August. His family is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. Lindsey will be sentenced in December. Tom Daubert received 5 years probation.
“In the wake of Tuesday’s votes to legalize adult use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington and medical marijuana in Massachusetts, there is a great deal of uncertainty about how federal authorities will treat patients, consumers, and growers complying with state marijuana laws,” says Richman Cohen. “The story of Chris Williams illustrates what happens when people fall into the cracks between state and federal law.”
Williams is being held in prison and will be sentenced on January 4, 2013. Richman Cohen is currently touring Code of the West to raise broader awareness about the plight of Williams and other activists, growers and patients.
To learn more about Code of the West, visit www.codeofthewestfilm.com
New York Times
‘The Fight Over Medical Marijuana’
By REBECCA RICHMAN COHEN
November 8, 2012