Montana Medical Marijuana Provider Chris Williams Convicted of Drug Trafficking
A jury on Thursday convicted a medical marijuana provider of drug trafficking and firearms charges, upholding the U.S. government's raids of state-regulated pot dispensaries in its first test at trial.
The provider, Chris Williams, was barred by the trial judge from making the case that he and Montana Cannabis followed the state medical marijuana law that voters approved in 2004. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled state laws were irrelevant in the case involving alleged violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
So Williams all but conceded the federal drug violations of which he is accused — conspiracy and the manufacture, possession and distribution of marijuana. He took the stand Wednesday and told jurors he was the "farmer" for Montana Cannabis' grow operation in Three Forks and then Helena, from where the drug was distributed to registered users across the state.
"It would be foolish of me to stand here and tell you that Mr. Williams wasn't in the business of growing marijuana. He was," defense attorney Michael Donahoe told jurors in his closing statement Thursday.
Donahoe instead focused on the four firearms charges against Williams, attempting unsuccessfully to persuade jurors to dismiss them.
- Read the entire article at Billings Gazette.
Chris Williams Found Guilty On All Counts
Chris Williams was found guilty on all counts related to his work at a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver organization, which was the subject of a federal raid in March of 2011. The verdict was reached by the jury shortly after 5:00 p.m. today and Mr. Williams was taken into custody by law enforcement officers. Chris faces mandatory minimum sentences which run into decades, and could be as high as 85 to 90 years. Maximum sentences run for several lifetimes.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Chris Lindsey, president of the MTCIA, and former partner of Chris Williams in 2009. “Federal law needs to change and respect the wishes of the citizens, who overwhelmingly favor the availability of medical marijuana for those in need. Federal law makes no allowance for it, and Mr. Williams will pay a heavy price for the government’s refusal to bend to the will of voters in Montana and around the country.”
Mr. Williams will remain in custody until he is sentenced. A sentencing hearing has not yet been set by the court, but is likely to take place in approximately 90 days.
“It is sad that Chris was tried for what he did and for what he believed in, but he couldn’t actually talk about what happened with the jury,” said Lindsey. “They didn’t get the whole story because of the way criminal trials are run. Chris and his attorney did the best they could to get their story in front of the jury, but the system does not allow it.”