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Approaching 'gates of hell' and turning back

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Charles Lynch appeared for sentencing April 23, only to have his fate postponed. Again.  In an interview, the former medical marijuana dispensary owner said he thinks it’s the fifth or sixth time he’s shown up and had sentencing delayed. Nonetheless, Lynch’s supporters see the delay as a good sign. And despite the last-minute notice of sentencing, they filled the courtroom, leaving many to stand outside. Many of Lynch’s patients appeared in front of the judge to speak on Lynch’s behalf, as well as the mayor and city attorney for Morro Bay. Lynch is now expected to be sentenced June 11 at 10 a.m.

Lynch is facing a minimum of five years in prison, after he was convicted in a federal court of selling marijuana out of his medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay. By all indications, Judge George Wu is trying to find a legal way to sentence Lynch to less time than required by mandatory minimum statutes. This is the first time Lynch has been in trouble with the law, and many believe the mandatory minimum sentencing laws, passed by Congress, are not being applied as they were intended with respect to Lynch.

“Originally, when these laws were drafted, it was not for people like Charlie,” Lynch’s public defender Reuven Cohen said.

Federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws are based on several factors, such as the type and quantity of the drugs involved, and whether someone is a repeat offender or head of an organization. They were passed as a way to punish drug kingpins.

“When Congress did that,” Cohen went on, “they were talking about serious drug offenders. Not guys who operated with business permits.”

Because Lynch owned the dispensary, he’s legally viewed as the leader of a medical marijuana drug ring. His patients and employees are unindicted co-conspirators, Cohen said. Being the leader, Lynch does not appear to qualify for a safety switch that could protect him from serving years in prison. He also sold marijuana to patients under the age of 21, and while it is very common for California dispensaries to do that, the federal government calls them minors even if they are 18 years and older.

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