A federal appeals court has accepted the government’s “oversized brief” of 32,951 words in defense of the U.S. government’s position that former medical marijuana dispensary operator Charles Lynch should face a mandatory minimum five-year sentence.
On April 11, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accepted the government’s massive brief—roughly half the size of the average novel—which is a response to Lynch’s appeal of his sentence.
In 2009, Lynch was convicted of conspiracy to possess, distribute, and manufacture controlled substances and sentenced to one year and a day in federal prison, but a sympathetic federal judge went against the prosecution’s recommendation of a longer sentence.
In the years following a 2006 raid on his former Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, Lynch has become the poster boy for conflicting state and federal laws. The most recent case centers on his appeal of the conviction, though in the years since that sentencing the Obama administration and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have issued memos urging federal prosecutors to use discretion with mandatory minimum sentences for medical marijuana cases. Additionally, the states of Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use in the time since Lynch’s conviction, while many other jurisdictions—including Washington, D.C.—have decriminalized its use.
Such political and social shifts in how the United States treats marijuana continue to baffle many of Lynch’s advocates, including his long-time attorney Reuven Cohen.
“This feels like an anachronism,” Cohen said of the government’s continued prosecution. “… This is not a drug case.”
The government had to seek permission to file the “oversized brief,” which exceeded the court’s 28,000-word limit. Now that the brief has been accepted, Cohen said he’ll need time to review the extensive document.
Asked about the case and the changing policies surrounding marijuana, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek told New Times the case continues to move forward because it’s on appeal.
“It is what it is,” he said, adding, “I’m not going to debate the larger issues at this point in time.”