“I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to affect my case,” former medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch said over a cell phone while on one of his regular trips to meet with his attorneys in Los Angeles. “The prosecutors said they’re not going to back off that easy on me. The more it drags out the worse they try to make me look.”
A U.S. Department of Justice Memo on Oct. 19 to other federal agencies and all U.S. attorneys basically ended a policy to raid medical marijuana dispensaries, even those that complied with state law. The new practice, according to the DOJ, is to direct drug-control efforts toward illegal operations.
“As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” the memo states.
Lynch was convicted in a federal court in August for operating a medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay. He has been sentenced to one year in federal prison. Although medical marijuana is legal under California law, federal agents raided the dispensary and prosecuted him in a Los Angeles federal court.
But what does the new policy mean for Lynch, who was prosecuted at a time when federal policies were just beginning to change? Judge George Wu delayed Lynch’s case when it was clear a new policy was taking shape earlier this year.
The case is on hold at the moment. Lynch is appealing his conviction and prison sentence, but the prosecution is also appealing the sentence in hopes of putting Lynch away for five years instead of one, Lynch told New Times.
SLO Attorney Lou Koory, who represented Lynch early in the case, said, “This confirms that the prosecution of Mr. Lynch was political in nature and was not justified. Under the current policy, Mr. Lynch would never have been prosecuted. Period.”
Lynch is unsure how the policy could affect his case, particularly given ambiguities in the language.
“They say this doesn’t give anybody any rights,” he said of the new federal direction. “Prosecutors can still do what they want.”