Tag: Jury nullification

Another Pot Casualty

Woo-hoo! Another great victory in the War on Drugs:

Richard Flor died in a Las Vegas Bureau of Prisons medical facility on Wednesday.

Flor, 68, was just a few months into a five-year prison sentence for running a Billings, Montana marijuana dispensary with his wife and son. Flor also co-owned Montana Cannabis, one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and which was the subject of a March, 2011 federal raid. Montana legalized medical cannabis in 2004, but that doesn’t matter under federal law.

Flor’s wife got two years in prison for bookkeeping, and his son got five years for running the Billings dispensary. These were pleas entered and settled before the Department of Justice (DOJ) could make sure that medical marijuana went unmentioned in the court room.

Flor got to die in a cage with his wife and son in another cage and unable to say goodbye. But at least he wasn’t high! And at least we kept some pot out of the hands of … sick people who had gotten approval to use the drug!

There’s one particular aspect about this, though, that continues to burn me up and that is the effort (usually successful) to keep defendants from telling juries they were legally licensed by the state to grow and sell marijuana. The argument, given by the Assistant USA, is this:

“The intertwined subjects of medical marijuana, Montana law, and medical necessity have no relevance to determining whether the government has proven the crimes charged in the indictment,” Thaggard wrote in a legal brief. “Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law . and can’t be dispensed under a prescription.”

I’m sure to a lot of lawyers, this sounds reasonable. To me, it sounds like lawyer bullshit. It especially sounds like lawyer bullshit because, as some of the defense attorneys in the case note, the federal government issued a public memo saying they would not prosecute people who were compliant with state law. They’ve done a flip-flop and prosecuted these people anyway. And it’s especially bullshit because it allows the federal prosecutors to portray people running legal licensed dispensaries as gangsters and thugs.

No, I don’t really think this is about whether state law is relevant to a federal case. I think is because federal prosecutors are filled with pants-shitting terror at the possibility of a nullification. They know that if a jury hears that the pot was being dispensed legally, they may refuse to enforce the federal law (as is a jury’s right. Jury nullification is legal and a proud American tradition.) They know this because juries who have convicted legal drug dispensers in federal court have been devastated when they found out the truth after the fact and have indicated that they would have nullified the federal law. This is about ambitious federal prosecutors making sure that no on can infringe on their ambitions. It’s about maintaining the fiction that we the citizen jurors have no option but to enforce the law, no matter how stupid, idiotic or unconstitutional it is.

There have been some attempts, from Ron Paul and Barney Frank to change this. However, they have gone nowhere because Congress is too chickenshit to show any mercy in the War on Drugs.

And so we can look forward to more men like Richard Flor dying in prison after being branded as felons. All for the horrible crime of trying to legally sell medicine to sick people.