An activist who long advocated for strict regulation of Montana’s once-booming medical marijuana industry pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal drug charge.
“I’m an honest person. I plead guilty,” Tom Daubert told U.S. Magistrate Jeremiah Lynch in response to a charge of conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises.
Daubert, 59, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $500,000 fine and three years’ supervised probation. Lynch set sentencing for Sept. 6.
Under a plea agreement, Daubert will pay a total fine of $50,000. However, any possible prison time won’t be known until Judge Dana Christensen sentences him.
When Lynch explained to Daubert on Thursday that Christensen might give him a lengthier sentence than recommended by federal prosecutors, Daubert said, “But he could also go lower?”
Lynch said he was obligated to outline the worst-case scenario.
“I’m a little more interested in the others,” Daubert responded.
Daubert fashioned the 2004 voter initiative that legalized the medical use of marijuana in Montana and was an outspoken proponent of regulation.
But, he said after Thursday’s arraignment and change of plea hearing, “I utterly failed in my attempts to improve the law so it worked better for patients and to help develop regulations so that it was controlled better.”
Daubert said he could not have foreseen the explosion of medical marijuana businesses and traveling “cannabis caravans” that signed up hundreds of people for “green cards” within a few hours.
The industry has nearly collapsed in the wake of federal raids on medical marijuana businesses around Montana last year.
Montana Cannabis, a medical marijuana business co-founded by Daubert, was among those raided. That action led to the federal drug charges against him and his former business associates.
The business had several locations around Montana, including a large greenhouse along U.S. Highway 12 west of Helena where Daubert often gave tours to legislators and law enforcement officers. The idea, he said, was to establish a law-abiding business that would serve as a model to others.
Daubert said in court Thursday that “I had sought to do recordkeeping far in excess of what the state required” for Montana Cannabis.
Those records, he suggested, helped federal agents build a case against him.
Daubert cut ties with Montana Cannabis in October 2010, but the federal case against him dates to 2009.
With the agreement of Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thaggard, Daubert will remain free until his sentencing.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio @missoulian.com or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.