Montana raids: Ex-medical marijuana provider can't claim entrapment

2012-09-24T06:23:00Z 2014-04-07T19:27:13Z Montana raids: Ex-medical marijuana provider can't claim entrapmentThe Associated Press The Associated Press
September 24, 2012 6:23 am  • 

HELENA — A former medical marijuana provider scheduled to stand trial Monday over last year's federal crackdown will not be allowed to claim that government officials entrapped him by making statements that led him to believe he would not be prosecuted.

Jurors will also be told to ignore any mention of Montana's medical marijuana law. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen's jury instructions say state laws are irrelevant to the federal charges against Chris Williams, a co-owner of the now-defunct Montana Cannabis.

The bans are a blow to Williams, who is charged with multiple drug manufacturing, trafficking and weapons counts. He is the only medical marijuana provider to stand trial among the dozens whose businesses, houses and warehouses were raided in the March 2011 crackdown of the state's large pot operators.

"You must disregard any statements or argument about the defendant or others purporting to comply or not to comply with state laws concerning marijuana," Christensen's jury instructions read.

Williams had planned to subpoena several journalists about statements from Attorney General Eric Holder and other government officials that made Williams believe he would not be prosecuted under federal law for selling medical marijuana.

Christensen rejected those planned subpoenas in an order Friday and said Williams could not claim Holder and the others entrapped him because "he was not directly induced by government agents to manufacture or distribute marijuana."

The 2011 raids led to a drop in the number of medical marijuana providers in the state, which was hastened by passage of a restrictive law that limited the number of patients per provider and barred those providers from making a profit. The Supreme Court this month upheld that portion of the new law, but voters will get a chance to repeal it in a November referendum.

More than two dozen medical marijuana providers have been indicted since the raids. Most of them reached plea deals to reduce the charges and prison time.

Williams wants to go to trial and tell his story.

"I know that what I was doing was right and I wasn't hurting anyone," he told The Associated Press.

He has previously said Montana Cannabis followed state law and believes the crackdown was timed to influence lawmakers who were taking up legislation. But with Christensen barring mention of state law as irrelevant in a case dealing with the federal Controlled Substances Act, Williams may not get his say.

Federal prosecutors said the original owners of Montana Cannabis — Williams, Tom Daubert, Richard Flor and Eric Billings — got to know each other during the campaign to pass a 2004 voter initiative to legalize medical marijuana. Montana Cannabis began operating in 2009, with attorney Chris Lindsey joining the founders and Billings leaving early in the venture.

Daubert, a lobbyist who helped draft the 2004 initiative, also left the day-to-day operations but continued to draw a paycheck from the business.

At its peak, Montana Cannabis provided marijuana for more than 300 customers with dispensaries in Helena, Missoula, Billings and Flor's Miles City home.

Those locations were among the 26 places searched across Montana in the 2011 raids, along with the business' Helena greenhouse that Williams ran. Police confiscated 950 plants there.

Daubert was given probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises. Lindsey is scheduled to plead guilty Oct. 4 to that charge. Flor died last month in custody after receiving a five-year sentence for his guilty plea on the same crime.

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

(8) Comments

  1. brucemarsh
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    brucemarsh - September 25, 2012 10:50 am
    Cannabis prohition itself is the crime. This is like King George coming to Montana and telling them that they have no freedom other than what the king grants them. It was only through JURY NULLIFICATION that this great country gained its freedom. I urge all cititzens to get onto cannabis trial juries, and use JURY NULLIFICATION to set our fellow citizens free. End government tyranny, use JURY NULLIFICATION.
  2. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - September 24, 2012 5:45 pm
    I believe there is a place for medical marijuana and more importantly a need. Things simply got out of hand. The question that needs to be answered to make this work is how? What needs to be done? What changes need to take place? How do we regulate? Who gets a prescription and why? The strengths....the on and so forth. I don't have the answers. The providers and the legitimate patients that want this to work need to compromise, they need to brainstorm. This first go round was a disaster.
  3. retiredmsla
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    retiredmsla - September 24, 2012 5:43 pm
    Being found guilty of obeying Montana law is hardly a crime. Let's get Eric Holder's boss out of office.
  4. dsrobins
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    dsrobins - September 24, 2012 2:39 pm
    Medical marijuana racketeers are always looking for new ways to avoid the law and the penalties they deserve.
  5. fattech
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    fattech - September 24, 2012 12:27 pm
    Jurors, We must be as active in the jury box as we are in the ballot box!! Refuse to convict your fellow citizen's of violating unjust laws! This case offers the People a voice in the laws of Our Nation, and I sincerely hope at least one juror refuses to convict! And, if you doubt nullification, I encourage you to study the catalyst for the 21st Amendment..... public sentiment expressed through jury nullification. It is Our voice. Nullify, nullify, nullify!!
  6. Not4Nothin
    Report Abuse
    Not4Nothin - September 24, 2012 12:14 pm
    I would love to get on this jury. I'd be happy to play "juror nullification" card and refuse to find the defendant guilty of anything. End that foolish and pointless war on drugs!
  7. BobbyB
    Report Abuse
    BobbyB - September 24, 2012 11:48 am
    Past history: 2004 Montana passes a medical marijuana imitative by a wide margin. As a result state legislation decides that voters were so ignorant they didn’t know what they were voting for, and so they nullify the voters decision by claiming the higher moral ground. The federal government reacts by completely ignoring the state, and the voters by claiming an even loftier position.

    Present day: A citizen acting according to the voter’s mandate decides to operate a business according to the new law. The federal government reacts by arresting the citizen, and makes every effort to have him incarcerated. The judge in the trial does his part in this mockery of justice by restricting the citizen’s right to give testimony on his own behalf.

    Hopeful outcome: A jury of American Patriots use the power of jury nullification to dispel the charges, and ask that the voter except their apology for whatever inconvenience he may have suffered.
  8. laurlea
    Report Abuse
    laurlea - September 24, 2012 9:46 am
    Everyone should look up the definition of JURY NULLIFICATION.
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