- UPDATE: Lepp was released in December 2016 following eight years of imprisonment.
Lake Co. – DEA raids Eddy Lepp‘s medicinal gardens Aug. 18th, 2004. Over 32,000 plants grown in public view along highway. Lepp says plants belonged to 2,000 – 3,000 patient shareholders. Lepp arrested and released on bail pending trial on marijuana charges with possible sentence of 12 years to life. 13 others arrested with Lepp but not charged. Feb 16, 2005: Lepp re-arrested along with Daniel Barnes after allegedly selling one pound of marijuana to DEA agents, who claim they did not mention medical purposes. Several hundred clones taken. Sept 2, 2008: Lepp found guilty by a federal jury on one count of conspiracy to distribute or to possess with the intent to distribute, and another count for manufacture or possession with the intent to distribute. With regard to both counts, jurors made the finding that the offenses involved at least a thousand marijuana plants, punishable by 10-year mandatory minimum. Court rejected Lepp’s claim of constitutional protection for religious and medical use. On May 18, 2009 Lepp was sentenced to 10 years and surrendered July 6, 2010 for incarceration. UPDATE: March 2014: Lepp has been moved from Texas to Colorado. July 2012: Lepp has been moved to Texas. Contributions to his prison account can be made through Green Aid.
- Los Angeles, May 27, 2008. DEA arrests Virgil Grant, owner of six LA-area dispensaries. Grant indicted on charges of drug conspiracy, money laundering, and operating a drug-related premises within 1,000 feet from a school. Also indicted: Grant’s wife Pshyra plus Stanley Jerome Cole, an employee accused of selling marijuana to an undercover agent. DEA began investigating Grant following an accident in which a truck driven by Jeremy White killed a driver and paralyzed a CHP officer. White had a quantity of edibles obtained from Grant’s facility in Compton and confessed to being DUI on marijuana. Virgil Grant was sentenced to six years in prison on March 22, 2010. Charges were dismissed against Pshyra Grant; Cole pleaded guilty and was given one year probation. Read more. He was released on 1/23/2015.
- El Dorado Co: Dr Mollie Fry & Dale Schafer. Operated medical marijuana clinic in Cool, California with 6000 patients; DEA raided Sep. 28, 2001; seized patient records. Indicted Jun 22, 2005 for marijuana found on premises. Convicted and sentenced to 5 years mandatory minimum for growing 100+ plants over three years (March 2008). UPDATE: A federal appeals court upheld Fry and Schafer’s sentences in November 2010. They surrendered and were sent to to prison on May 2, 2011. Read more.
UPDATE Both Dale and Mollie were released in 2015.
- LA, July 17, 2007. Larry Kristich and James Carberry indicted for having operated a chain of medical marijuana dispensaries known as "Compassionate Caregivers." The chain had outlets in Oakland, West Hollywood, Ukiah, Bakersfield, San Francisco San Diego and Alameda County, before being forced to close following a bust of their West Hollywood "Yellow House" in 2005. The indictment charges that Compassionate Caregivers made over $95 million in sales. Also indicted: James Ealy on money laundering charges. Ealy pled guilty to misdemeanor possession and sentenced to 1,000 hours community service (April 28, 2008). Carberry sentenced to 5 years probation 4/30/08. Kristich sentenced on 2/3/09 to 5 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
- Chico. – Bryan Epis convicted by federal jury July 2002 cultivating 457 plants for Chico cannabis collective; arrested August 1997; sentenced to 10-year mandatory minimum Oct. 7, 2002. Released on bail August 9, 2004. In May 2009, in an unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed Epis’s 10-year mandatory minimum sentence without holding a hearing. The panel included Judge Jay Bybee, recently indicted as an international war criminal by Spain for having authored the DOJ’s notorious torture memos. See a MoveOn.org petition to impeach Judge Bybee. UPDATE: On February 22, 2010 Judge Damrell ordered Epis back to prison to serve the remainder of his 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. UPDATE 7/12: US Judge Garland Burrell reduced Epis’s sentence from 120 months to 90 months (plus 10 years supervised release). The court ignored evidence of prosecutorial misconduct by US Attorney Samuel Wong, but ruled that Epis had received inadequate defense counsel instead. Bryan’s release date was moved up from 2016 to 2013. He was released 12/13/2013.
- July 23, 2013 – An AIDS sufferer and former circus performer who supplied military veterans with medical marijuana was sentenced to five years of probation in federal court in Spokane, WA. Rick Rosio, 57, had faced 30 months to 37 months in prison on a felony charge of growing more than 50 marijuana plants. But after his lawyer pointed out that marijuana is now legal in Washington state — and a Catholic brother, a priest, and a veterans’ advocate who hosts a local radio show wrote letters of support — Rosio walked out with probation instead. His co-defendant, Shaun Schrader, also got 5 years probation. Read more.
- April 27, 2010 – Five gardens allegedly connected to the B&C Natural Things collective in Ridgecrest were raided by NCIS, CHP, Kern county sheriffs, Inyo and Cal City SWAT teams. Taken into custody were Erik Christopher Stacy (27), Robert Davis Dodson, Jr, Charles Lee Kisor, Charles Edward Klaus, and Geoffrey Edward Bliss. All are reportedly charged with cultivation of more than 1000 plants, the aggregate of the gardens. Each plant was labeled with a patient’s name; the collective had 450 patients. Klaus and Bliss pleaded guilty on 8/11/11 and were given 3 years probation each. On 2/20/12, Stacy was sentenced to 30 months in prison; Dodson to two years in prison; and Kisor to 20 months; all got four years probation on top of their prison sentences. Kisor was released on 8/24/2013 and Stacy on 11/15/2013.
- Upper Lake, August 24, 2009 – Scott Feil and his wife Diane, along with Steven Swanson and Thomas Carter were raided and arrested by the DEA in a case stemming from Feil’s former involvement with the UMCC medical cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles. Feil has been fighting a federal forfeiture case for several years and is facing a 5-10 year sentence. On September 1, 2010 Carter, 59, was arrested by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and taken into custody. UPDATE 6/3/11: Carter pleaded guilty on May 9; sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 6 in the Federal District Court in San Francisco. Swanson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute plus tax evasion on June 1. Another defendant, Mark Garcia of San Diego, has been added to the case. Read more. Scott Feil was sentenced to 5 years in prison; he and Diana were sentenced to 4 years probation plus a $2.69 million fine. Feil was released from prison on December 8, 2014.
- Kern County, July 16, 2007. DEA raids Nature’s Medicinal cannabis dispensary near Bakersfield, arresting two owners, David Chavez, Sr., 48 and David Chavez, Jr, 28, plus six employees: John Wyatt, 29, John Shanks, 59, Israel Cavazos, 34, Jonathan Chapman, 28, Timothy Doolittle, 39, and Jennifer Brown, 34. Records indicated the facility made over $9.6 million in sales over a 9-month period. The facility had been operating in compliance with local regulations and was paying taxes. Agents seized $50,000 in cash from the premises.
On 2/17/2009 Doolittle was sentenced to 30 months as a "minor player." He was released on 09-18-2009. On May 10, 2011, Cavazos, who also faced 20 years, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years after pleading guilty. Wyatt and Chapman also pleaded guilty. Wyatt was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and 3 years probation on May 31, and Chapman was sentenced to 37 months. Jennifer Brown was sentenced to a year in prison and John Shanks received a 1 year 8 month sentence.
David Chavez Jr. was sentenced to 48 months in August 2012 and was sent to prison on June 28, 2013. David Chavez Sr. pled guilty on Dec 17, 2012. He agreed to a sentence of no less than 87 months, and turned himself in on September 3, 2013.
ISRAEL CAVAZOS 63545-097
JONATHAN M CHAPMAN 63546-097
JOHN RICHARD SHANKS 63521-097
John Wayne Wyatt 63522-097
David Chavez Jr. 63519-097
David Chavez Sr. 63518-097
- Orange County, Nov 1, 2007. DEA arrests Steele Smith, director of C-3 medical cannabis caregiver service. Indicted along with Theresa Smith, Alexander Valentine, and Dennis Lalonde on charges of cultivating 1,289 plants at various addresses. All but Theresa, who served five months, were in federal prison for nearly a year, including Valentine, a 21 year-old-patient with Elephant-man’s syndrome. All defendants face 10-year sentences. For the first time, a medical marijuana defense of sorts may be raised this federal case: in April 2010, Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that if any defendant chooses to testify, they can testify as to the context of why they did what they did, even if it involves medical marijuana issues under state law; however the jury will still be instructed that any testimony involving medical marijuana will not be a defense. Trial has been continued countless times. Read more.
UPDATE: Steele Smith pled guilty and was sentenced to 8 months and 21 days time served on Feb 4, 2013. He is on supervised release for 5 years. There are numerous sealed documents in the case. A transcript of his sentencing will be made available on Jun 13th. Theresa Ann Smith had charges dismissed on July 26 2012, There are also sealed documents in her case. Lalonde also had charges dismissed on Aug 1, 2012. No sealed documents. Valentine pled guilty to 1 count of manufacture on July 16, 2012. His sentencing has been postponed several times. There are many sealed documents in his case. All cases were handled by US District Judge Cormac Carney.
- Humboldt County, May 4, 2006 – Timothy Dellas was convicted of one count of “manufacture” of marijuana and of one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana involving more than 1,000 plants. The Humboldt County Sheriff turned the case over to federal law enforcement after executing a search warrant in June 2003 based on information from an informant. At a pretrial hearing Dellas testified that he was growing for dispensaries, and a dispensary operator appeared in court and attempted to testify for him. At the sentencing hearing in January 2007, Tim again testified that he was growing for dispensaries, and later reiterated this in his statement before the judge. Nonetheless, the court sentenced him to a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison and five years supervised release. Dellas was released on 11-19-2015
- Alameda County, Oct 30, 2007. DEA raids Compassionate Collective of Alameda County, arresting Abraham & Winslow Norton, on 23-count indictment. CCAC was one of three licensed clubs in Alameda County and operated as a legal non-profit coop. Government charges CCAC made $21.5 million in revenues in 2006; does not mention millions in payroll and sales taxes paid. Nortons charged with conpiracy to distribute over 100 kilos and numerous money-laundering offenses. UPDATE Feb. 27, 2009 – As A.G. Eric Holder announced his office would not be prosecuting medical marijuana providers, the Norton brothers were being arraigned along with two new defendants — their father Michael Norton and the manager of the dispensary, Brian Everett.
UPDATE 5/3/2013 – Winslow and Abraham Norton agreed to a sentence of six months in jail and six months on home detention. They also agreed to forfeit some $600,000 in revenues. Two other codefendants — the Nortons’ father Michael and Brian Everett — pleaded guilty to using a telephone for a drug crime. They will be placed on probation. In addition, according to the Nortons, $600,000 seized by the federal government taken from a dedicated sales tax account will be forfeited as part of the plea agreement.
UPDATE 10/10/2013 – Sentencing took place for all but Winslow Norton, who is scheduled for Tuesday October 15 at 1:30 PM. Winslow, 32, has already started serving his time. In July, the federal government revoked his bail after a traffic stop in San Rafael revealed 2 pounds of marijuana in his car.
“These sentences are a marked improvement over recent efforts by the Obama Administration to seek mandatory minimum sentences of five to ten years in prison, however they still illustrate the unfortunate reality of federal officials aggressively prosecuting medical marijuana cases,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access. “No dispensary operator should endure a federal conviction or spend time in prison when they are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana law.”
- On June 7, 2007, Siskiyou County Sheriffs picked up Gary Hulsey on a federal warrant. Hulsey had a 17-member collective garden with 68 plants and night security. He acquired the approval of the deputy, who later busted him, and the deputy has now been promoted to U.S. Marshall. Hulsey pled guilty in federal court to conspiracy and was given an 18-month sentence in early 2011. He was released in September 2012.
- Hayward, Dec 12, 2006 – DEA & IRS raid Local Patients’ Group, arrest owner Shon Squier, 34 and manager Valerie Herschel, 23, seize $2 million in assets. LPG had already agreed to shut its doors at the end of the month after having violated the city’s limit on quantity of product on premises. Squier and Herschel charged with distribution, maintaining drug premises, and money laundering. In August 2010, Squier received a sentence of 30 months in prison. He was released in June 2012.
- Merced – Aug 10th, 2005. Patient activist Dustin "DC" Costa arrested on federal charges. The charges stemmed from a raid in February 2004, when some 900 plants were seized from Costa’s greenhouse. Costa had maintained that the plants were all for legal Prop. 215 patients. After 18 months of court continuances, state officials turned DC’s case over for federal prosecution. Convicted & Sentenced to 15 Years in prison under federal mandatory minimums Jan 2007.
Dustin Robert Costa 62406-097
- September 29, 2010 – DEA and San Diego Sheriffs conduct SWAT-style raids at the home of Donald Lee Hunt Jr. and Donald Lee Hunt Sr., charging them federally with conspiracy to grow over 100 marijuana plants. Hunt Jr. had articles of incorporation and patient records for a medical marijuana cultivating collective, which did not dispense. After 23 plants for his own use and one ounce of dried marijuana were found at his residence, Hunt Sr. was also charged. The elder Hunt developed painful plantar fasciitis in his heel while working as a bellman for the Hyatt Regency for 27 years; he also suffers from glaucoma. Facing prison sentences of 5 years or more, the Hunts pled guilty to lesser charges. They have now been released from prison.
- Completely disabled from a 1997 car accident, Joe Kidwell used marijuana to treat constant pain from his severe back injuries. While living in California, Kidwell got the doctor’s recommendation required under state medical marijuana laws and began cultivating a small garden. After a bust and a trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, a jury found Kidwell guilty of cultivating 14 marijuana plants. The verdict came in spite of the presentation of multiple written doctor’s recommendations and the fact that two doctors testified on Kidwell’s behalf. He was sentenced to a term of probation that allowed him to smoke marijuana in his house but specifically forbade him from engaging in any marijuana advocacy. Done wrong in a state where medical marijuana was supposed to be legal, Kidwell looked for greener pastures elsewhere. He ended up in Kentucky, where his cultivation activities resulted in a federal indictment against him in August 2002. In his ensuing trial, Kidwell claims he was not permitted to represent himself, and that 17 of his 18 witness were denied an opportunity to testify. Following his conviction and sentencing, he was imprisoned in various institutions until 2011. Source: Medical Marijuana of America
- September 11, 2009 – James Stacy and Joseph Nunes faced federal charges after 30 people were arrested during a DEA-assisted raid of medical-marijuana collectives in the San Diego area. Stacy, 45, operated Movement in Action in Vista when an undercover San Diego County sheriff’s detective posed as a patient and went to the cooperative in June. The warrant said Stacy was not following state law because he did not fit the definition of a caregiver who can provide medical marijuana to patients. Nunes operated the Green Kross Collective in San Diego, where police also made undercover purchases. Court records claim Nunes seemed to be profiting from the collective, which by state guidelines must be nonprofit. Nunes pleaded guilty in May 2010 and was sentenced to 1 year in prison and 3 years probation. Stacy’s medical marijuana defense was denied in July 2010, causing a storm of protest by advocates. UPDATE 11/10 – Just before trial in October, Stacy signed a 6-month sentence agreement. Judge Moskowitz accepted the agreement and set a sentencing date for January 7, 2011. In front of a courtroom filled to the brim with supporters wearing green solidarity ribbons, James Stacy was instead sentenced to 2 years probation. UPDATE 5/12: Nunes was released from prison on 4/29/2011.
- UPDATE: February 24, 2015 – Charles Lynch filed Appropriations Act, 2015 Section 538 Motion to end his prosecution for operating a medical marijuana dispensary in 2006. He is due in court on April 13, 2018 in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, August 7, 2008. Charles Lynch was convicted on five counts of distributing marijuana and faced a minimum sentence of five years. Lynch operated Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay in accord with local regulations and approval by city council. Lynch was convicted of selling to minors under 21, but all were either over 18, the legal age for medical marijuana in California, or else accompanied by parents. On March 23, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu postponed sentencing and asked prosecutors from the Justice Department for a written position on medical marijuana prosecutions in light of recent comments from AG Holder. On April 17, 2009, the US DOJ responded in a letter claiming the prosecution was consistent with DOJ policy. On June 11, 2009 Lynch was sentenced to one year plus one day in federal prison and four years’ probation. More on Charles Lynch trial. UPDATE 5/12 – A new film, Lynching Charlie Lynch, tells the story.
- LA, July 17, 2007. John Moreaux of Valencia, a former associate of Compassionate Caregivers, was indicted for operating a second cannabis club in West Hollywood. Moreaux had a prior marijuana conviction and was also charged with illegal possession of a shotgun. Sentenced to 18 mo. + 3 yrs supervised release, April 29, 2008.
- Nevada County, Sept 11, 2007. Michael Lombardo, 49, arrested by DEA for growing medical marijuana for five patients at his home in Smartville. Lombardo, who has no prior record, charged with growing over 100 plants, but claims fewer were on his property. The government has also moved to forfeit Lombardo’s home. (It was one of three marijuana busts referred to the DEA by the Nevada County Sheriff.)
Judge Lawrence Karlton sentenced Lombardo to one year and a day in federal prison in March 2011 and allowed him to use medical marijuana while on supervised release. Lombardo surrendered and was imprisoned on May 10, 2011. Read more.
- Riverside County, July 17, 2007: Ronald Naulls arrested for operating Healing Nations Collective in Corona. The city had filed suit to have the store closed. Naulls’ wife also arrested on state charges and their children put in protective custody on grounds that marijuana in their home posed a danger to them. On August 30, 2010 Naulls was sentenced to six month’s home confinement and almost $15,000 restitution for tax evasion.
- Oakland, March 16, 2006. DEA raids cannabis candy manufacturer, "Beyond Bomb," at three different East Bay sites, seizing over 5,000 plants, $150K cash, and the company’s stash of cannabis candies & soda pop. Arrested are alleged ringleader Kenneth "Kena" Affolter, 39, and 11 other employees. DEA says products were packaged in eye-catching candy wrappers that might pose danger to kids. Supporters say that products were distributed for use by medical marijuana patients. Affolter sentenced to 70 months; co-defendants Amy Teresa Arata and Jesse Monko sentenced to 18 months; Jaime Alvarez-Lopez and Elizabeth Ramirez sentenced to 1 year Sept. 26-06.
- San Diego, July 6th 2006 – DEA and San Diego county narcotics agents shut down the city’s dispensaries; half of the city’s 19 dispensaries raided, others pressured to close. Six arrested on federal charges: John Sullivan, owner of the Purple Bud Room, who had other run-ins with the law; plus five defendants charged with cultivation in association with Co-Op San Diego: Wayne Hudson, Chris Larkin, Ross McManus, Scott Wright, and Michael Ragin. John Sullivan sentenced to 5 years (+ 5 yrs. sup. release), Aug. 31, 2007. Wayne Hudson sentenced to 1 year (+ 4 yrs sup. release); Larkin, McManus, Wright and Ragin sentenced to 5 yrs. probation (Feb 26, 2007).
- July 13, 2007 – Dr. Armond Tollette of Los Angeles indicted for allegedly writing faulty recommendations, offering referral kickbacks to patients, and sharing marijuana with them. Arrested in connection with Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers investigation in SLO County. Tollete, of Culver City, California, had previously pled guilty on September 19, 2007 to conspiring with four owners and operators of ultrasound testing companies to commit health care fraud. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution to Medicare amounting to $909,000.
- San Francisco – June 22, 2005. Feds raid 3 dispensaries and indict 21, mostly Asian-Americans, in what is described as a major organized crime operation. Three defendants, Enrique Chan, Richard Wong, and Thy Quang Nguyen, charged with sales of ecstasy; Wong and Phat Van Vuong charged with money laundering. Others include Phung Van Nguyen, director of first Asian-American medical cannabis dispensary; plus Bartholomew Alexis, Sergio Alvarez, Asa Barnla, Jay Chen, Minho Cho, Faisal Gowani, Chi Duc Hac, Darrick Hom, David Lee, Genaro Lopez, Brian Ly, Roselia Mendoza, Edward Park, Iris Tam, Edwin Toy, Vince Ming Wan. More details. UPDATE: Van Nguyen was sentenced to two years in federal prison in September 2010 and surrendered himself in San Francisco on January 5, 2011. He was released on 5/16/2012.
- Sacramento – July 7, 2005. Louis Wayne Fowler, director of Alternative Specialities dispensary, charged by feds following raid by Sacramento County Sheriff that uncovered two indoor gardens with an alleged 800 plants. Sheriffs say Fowler had a criminal record for embezzlement and failed to file for a business license. Charged for manufacture of marijuana and illegal possession of weapons. Jumped bail – at large Sep. 2008.
- El Dorado County – June 30, 2006. DEA & sheriffs arrest patient grower David Harde and wife Toby Landis on federal charges of sales of (medical) marijuana. Harde had been arrested Sept 1, 2005, by local sheriffs in connection with a five-patient collective. Facing difficult prosecution, county turned case over to feds. Harde sentenced to 30 months, December 2006. Charges against Landis dropped.
- Santa Barbara, August 26, 2008. A federal grand jury indicted John Seidenberg, 41, of Santa Ynez for growing two medical marijuana gardens for the Hortipharm collective. Seidenberg, who was originally arrested on state charges, had been preparing a Prop. 215 defense in state court, but he was turned over for federal prosecution by a Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputy. Read more. UPDATE: In July 2010, Seidenberg was sentenced to 4 years of probation plus 18 months of GPS monitoring. His co-defendants all got probation in state cases.
- Trinity County – Vernon Rylee, 61, was snatched out of state court in Trinity County on 10/18/05 and arrested on federal cultivation charges. Rylee and his wife had been arrested in 2003 for a sizable outdoors grow; they were re-arrested the next year after deliberately replanting another garden in public view. While awaiting trial, they were arrested once again, this time for a personal use garden of approximately ten plants. The Trinity County DA dismissed Janet, but turned Vernon, who is seriously ill, over to the feds. After being held 4 months in Sacramento Jail, where his condition worsened, he has been transfered to the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center. Sentenced to 71 months, August 2006. UPDATE 11/10 – Rylee has been released on home confinement after serving almost 5 years in federal prison.
- Tehama Co. – David Dean Davidson, 52, and Cynthia Barcelo Blake, 53, indicted by federal grand jury on Jan 8, 2004 after trying to assert medical marijuana defense in state court. Arrested with 100s of small seedlings, 33 mature plants, and a few pounds of processed marijuana in Red Bluff and Oakland. Defendants say they were for personal use. The Tehama DA turned the case over to the feds while pretending to negotiate a deal with their attorneys. Blake sentenced to 18 months, September 2006. Davidson jumped bail and re-arrested, sentenced to 41 months. He was released 05-18-2010.
- San Francisco – Stephanie Landa, Kevin Gage, Thomas Kikuchi arrested July 15th 2002 for 3000 square ft. medical marijuana garden in San Francisco. SF police had told the defendants beforehand that medical cultivation was OK, but then arrested them and turned their case over to the feds. Pled guilty to maintaining a place for manufacture. Landa and Gage sentenced Aug 2003 to 41 months; Kikuchi was sentenced to 37 months and released 06/19/2009. On September 29, 2008, Landa was put into solitary confinement and her sentence extended for 6 months for testing positive for THC, even though she has a Marinol prescription. She was released October 15, 2009 after serving nearly 3 years.