California Man Jailed for Medical Marijuana

Lynch gets a year in prison though marijuana is allowed under California law.

ByABC News
March 9, 2009, 3:32 PM

June 11, 2009 -- If the voters in your state say it's OK to do something, is it?

Apparently not.

Charlie Lynch was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for running a medical marijuana dispensary, even though voters in the state of California had legalized medical marijuana.

U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu handed down the sentence today at the Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles.

Lynch had faced five to 100 years, under sentencing guidelines. Wu said he saw no way around imposing a sentence of at least one year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Although the Obama administration recently announced it would stop raiding marijuana dispensaries in states that allow medical marijuana, it declined to intervene in the Lynch case. In a statement released in April, the Justice Department called Lynch's conviction "entirely consistent with the policies of DOJ and with public statements made by the attorney general."

Lynch wasn't dealing drugs in back alleys. He thought he was operating within the law. He had applied for a business license, joined the chamber of commerce, consulted with attorneys and called the DEA before opening his medical marijuana dispensary. Lynch even held a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by city councilmen and the town mayor.

Thirteen states, including California, allow patients to use marijuana for medicinal use, and Lynch was selling marijuana to patients whose doctors had recommended the drug. Hundreds of dispensaries across California have helped thousands of patients to access medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana helped teenager Owen Beck, of Morro Bay, Calif., when his leg was amputated to stop the spread of a cancerous tumor. Beck found that chemo's effects were devastating and the traditional medications didn't help.

"It destroys your appetite," Beck said of the chemo, "and whatever you can eat, you throw up."

His mother Debbie Beck said, "All those pills that we had, nothing was helping him."

So, Beck tried medical marijuana, purchased from the dispensary run by Lynch.