Medical marijuana provider finds little support for challenge of federal drug raids

2012-11-25T14:38:00Z 2012-12-14T09:42:17Z Medical marijuana provider finds little support for challenge of federal drug raidsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 25, 2012 2:38 pm  • 

HELENA — A Montana medical marijuana provider staring down an 80-year prison sentence has become something of a martyr among pot advocates, but he's not finding much support for his constitutional challenge of the federal raids that landed him in jail.

Chris Williams was the only provider among those indicted after the 2011 raids on more than a dozen medical marijuana operations across Montana who rejected multiple plea deals and insisted on a jury trial on the eight drug trafficking and weapons charges he faced.

Williams also is the lead plaintiff in a civil lawsuit that claims he and the other providers were following Montana's medical marijuana laws and the raids were an unconstitutional usurpation of local government and police powers by the federal government.

Williams lost both cases in a one-two punch. In January, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy dismissed the civil lawsuit, saying the federal Controlled Substances Act prevails over Montana's laws because of the Constitution's Supremacy Clause.

Then in September, Williams was found guilty on all eight criminal counts after the jury was prevented from hearing anything about Montana's medical marijuana laws.

Now Williams faces 80 years or more in prison when he is sentenced on the criminal charges Jan. 4. His case has drawn the attention and outrage of pro-medical marijuana advocates who say he is the victim of overzealous prosecution, and an online White House petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Williams has gathered more than 18,800 signatures in eight days.

Meanwhile, Williams' attorney in the civil lawsuit has taken the constitutional challenge of the raids to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorney Paul Livingston said in a recent interview that for all the attention Williams has received in his criminal case, his civil case has been ignored by Montana's marijuana advocates and the attorneys who defended other indicted marijuana providers.

"He has been made a martyr," Livingston said. "I just don't understand how it has been ignored as it is."

Williams' constitutional challenge says he and the other provider plaintiffs were running their medical marijuana operations openly, honestly and in compliance with state law. When federal agents raided those operations to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, which lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the government interfered with the rights and powers given to the states by the Constitution's 10th Amendment, they claim.

That amendment says powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution and not prohibited by the states are reserved to the states or the people.

Livingston said Judge Molloy should have held a trial on the lawsuit instead of dismissing the claim outright for lack of a claim. Molloy said in his ruling, "We are all bound by federal law, like it or not."

The appeal has yet to be scheduled for hearing before the 9th Circuit.

Just one medical marijuana advocacy group, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, has filed court documents in support of the appeal. Association president Chris Lindsey said his organization is likely not to become more involved than that.

Lindsey, who was Williams' partner in Montana Cannabis and was convicted in a plea deal with federal prosecutors, said the group's focus and resources are tied up in a separate lawsuit that aims to revoke medical marijuana restrictions passed by the state Legislature last year.

"I think it's a worthy effort, bu the MTCIA decided to focus its attention on the case pending (in state court)," Lindsey said. "There's only so much we can really afford to get involved in."

Others say it is quixotic to hope for a court ruling such as the one Williams and Livingston are seeking, and that say other avenues may be more effective, such as the voter initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado allowing the recreational use of marijuana.

Robert Raich, a California attorney who brought two medical marijuana cases that were rejected by the Supreme Court, said he has concluded from his own experience that marijuana laws won't be changed through the judicial process.

"The War on Drugs is too sacrosanct a sacred cow for the courts to weigh in favor," Raich said. "I think we can make better progress by doing something other than filing lawsuits."

But he said he is sympathetic to Williams' plight and called the marijuana crackdown in Montana the harshest among the states.

"Montana is the worst," he said. "The federal government has attacked medical cannabis with a vengeance in Montana more than any other state."

Livingston said he will keep pressing forward with the appeal, even if there is no financial support and his lead plaintiff is in prison. He believes the appeal ultimately will be successful and Williams will be vindicated.

"It's a very solid case, it is a case that needs to be decided and I think everyone would agree once they learn the facts of what happened," Livingston said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 27, 2012 10:24 am
    how about dealing with life without using drugs? be a grown up. we all have issues, we all have problems, yet most of us are strong enough to get through it without drugs. as I said, only the weak need drugs.
  2. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 27, 2012 10:22 am
    I support the war on drugs. I have absolutely no problem spending money to stop druggies. I'd much rather spend taxes to put druggies in jail than to give my money to lazy welfare recipients. I do not understand why people support drugs. I guess maybe you'll have to lose a child to a stoned/drunk driver to be against drugs. It's just so sad and irresponsible that so many feel the need to be stoned.
  3. TheCommon
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    TheCommon - November 26, 2012 10:16 pm
    "pathetic, weak, dependent idiots."

    What are you talking about? You and Walter have some pretty interesting comments.

    What are these tremendous crisises that are coming soon? Black holes opening, myan calendar is ending, zombie apocalypse? All of those are pretty likely...

    Walter what do you mean when you say Marijuana is about only 2 things: getting high and money? Sure you can get high and you pay money, but ask yourself why people get high. Maybe to enjoy life a little more, because we all know life is not always a fun ride.

    take off your tin hats and put on your thinking caps when posting
  4. Michael Assenberg
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    Michael Assenberg - November 26, 2012 7:53 pm
    Jim,

    I would have to say in respect of this paper, they would have never allowed my comments like about the area's of law that I was talking about and they would have not allowed the link to the Cash Hyde story.

    I myself don't feel this paper is in collusion with tyranny, but I do want to thank you very much for placing this on your blog as the only way to teach the public is to show them both sides and this story has shown how some people that are for the " War on Drugs " and want to shoot off at the mouth, while I show how the Justice system is in violation of Congress and has been since 2002 when the Controlled Substance Act was changed.

    Once again Jim thanks for spreading the word.
  5. TheCommon
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    TheCommon - November 26, 2012 5:42 pm
    Madtaxpayer, you are nothing less than a fool. There is absolutely nothing wrong with medical marijuana. Cancer patients should be allowed to use it, I agree; however, many other patients with disorders and diseases such as ADHD, severe anxiety, depression, ect. should be able to use it. I say this because marijuana is not addictive compared to pharmaceuticals like adderall which can build up a physical dependency. Watch this clip from ABC news [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP-RHZqTEVs] and tell me that this boy shouldn't be taking medicinal marijuana, no young boy should say he wants to die because of a disorder that he has.
    I don't know how you can brush off Michael by saying "everyone has pain" when he was struck in the back with a bat, you imply his injury wasn't serious and on the same level as a "hurt finger." I don't see how you can be a mad tax payer and support the criminalization of marijuana, citizens are wasting vast amounts of money each year on the "war" on drugs.
  6. stabbykat
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    stabbykat - November 26, 2012 4:56 pm
    I like how the proponents of medical marijuana all state their opinion intelligently, with good understanding of the law and judicial process, like one would expect from a fully mature adult, and all you have to say are things like "wah wah wah, deal with it" and act like a juvenile. Really says something about the intelligence of people in favor of the drug war and those against it.
  7. just say now
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    just say now - November 26, 2012 1:09 pm
    Finish off the drug war with jury nullification! NEVER CONVICT!
  8. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 26, 2012 12:31 pm
    everyone has pain. wah wah wah, deal with it LEGALLY!!! I get so tired of people crying because their poor back hurts, their neck hurts, their finger hurts any pain they could come up with to get stoned!

    the ONLY people who should be allowed to use pot are cancer patients. it helps them overcome the nausea from the treatments. If you are not on your death bed, take some aspirin!
  9. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 26, 2012 12:24 pm

    "what does that tell about these people?"


    that this country is full of pathetic, weak, dependent idiots.
  10. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 26, 2012 12:22 pm
    LOL! ok, wow, just wow. never realized how many people in this country are so dependent (weak) and need drugs to function on a daily basis. just... wow. so immature.
  11. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - November 26, 2012 12:21 pm
    "The federal government has attacked medical cannabis with a vengeance in Montana more than any other state."

    Thank you Feds!!! those of us who are against medical mj appreciate your support. please continue to hunt down these drug users/abusers/pushers/dealers and get them out of our state for good!
  12. Michael Assenberg
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    Michael Assenberg - November 26, 2012 8:09 am
    Walter12,

    Please watch the youtube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuPqLVEnd7A

    This video is about a little child named Cash Hyde who had a brain tumor that just passed away thanks to the Federal crackdown he is now dead.

    While on cannabis his tumor was in remission but once off cannabis his tumor started growing again and it has since killed this little boy, Now why don't you tell his parents or others with cancer that there is no medical value.

    Please do research on this because as long as you trust what DARE teaches and the lies of the feds things will not change.

    At least two states are tired of waisted tax money on this and want change, and I hope that with making this legal there will be less cops that are on the take.
  13. walter12
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    walter12 - November 26, 2012 7:26 am
    There is not and never has been, a thing called Medical Marijuana, that is just a scam. There is marijuana period, and it is about only two things, getting high and money. Of all the giant and serious problems this nation has and faces in the future, with all the tremendous crisises that are coming very soon, and all these people can think of is marijuana legalization and gay marriage, what does that tell about these people?
  14. Michael Assenberg
    Report Abuse
    Michael Assenberg - November 26, 2012 6:17 am
    This is to WeedBGone,

    I used to be a Security Guard in 1985 who was attacked on the job. I was hit in the middle of my back with a baseball bat and then pushed backwards off a bridge onto boulders in a dry river bottom.

    For six months I had no feeling from my belly down and it took seven years to get off a walker, in all this time everything known to pill makers has been tried to control the pain that fluid blockage at C-7 up to 500 MG of morphine per day!

    With out the use of Cannabis I would have been long dead by now as the cannabis has been found to be the ONLY thing that helps the best.

    As a matter of fact I am fighting a case right now in court and it looks good as I am using the Washington State constitution in my case, Since they have over 100 shops open every day in Seattle under ARTICLE I, SECTION 12 SPECIAL PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES PROHIBITED, They can not run in seattle with the police allowing it while busting people in other counties.

    As far as Federal Law goes if you were to look up U.S. Federal Code 21 USC Sec. 812 01/22/02 -EXPCITE-
    TITLE 21 - FOOD AND DRUGS CHAPTER 13 - DRUG ABUSE PREVENTION AND CONTROL SUBCHAPTER I - CONTROL AND ENFORCEMENT Part B, you would find that for the Feds to consider Marijuana a Schedule I drug it MUST meet guidelines, here are the TWO guidelines that fail the feds.

    The first is under (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. The trouble with this is that we have 18 States who's Doctors allow this for Medical use and the Second is under (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision, In 5,000 years there has NEVER been one reported death due to smoking too much pot.

    Then there is the fact that in my state the man-made marijuana pill Dronabinol cost the state $1,724.00 PER BOTTLE of 90 pills that last one month.

    Before you slam those who use cannabis follow the money trail as to why it is kept a crime, as a seller of cannabis to the disabled I wish it would be legal for those over 21 so the prices would go down and the sick as well as those who just want it for other reasons would be getting safe pot that is not laced with anything and put an end to the black market.

    My next pre-trial is on the 7th of Dec. with the Trial on the 17th.
  15. WeedBGone
    Report Abuse
    WeedBGone - November 25, 2012 10:34 pm
    No sympathy here. He knew the Federal classification for marijuana and other illegal drugs. Want to play 'chicken' with the Feds? You're liable to get burnt and you're damned well not going to prevail with any legal challenges. He took a chance and he lost as all the other potheads and pushers should do.
  16. live and let live
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    live and let live - November 25, 2012 9:37 pm
    End Prohibition. This is searing injustice.
  17. Jose79845
    Report Abuse
    Jose79845 - November 25, 2012 7:40 pm
    The heck with a civil lawsuit, I would file a criminal lawsuit against the judge for malicious prosecution and abuse of process.
  18. jim dandy
    Report Abuse
    jim dandy - November 25, 2012 5:13 pm
    this is going on my blog i have to assume this paper is in collusion with tyranny and now the whole world's gonna know
  19. jim dandy
    Report Abuse
    jim dandy - November 25, 2012 5:10 pm
    Americans moved away from Europe to get away from this kind of persecution The prosecution and judges are shaming themselves forever. Ever heard of a Kangaroo court? No defense?Corruption was not one of Obama's promises!! this man is innocent and everybody knows it .I dreamed i saw Joe Hill last night
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