Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operator Charles C. Lynch Sentenced to One Year in Federal Prison despite Change in Federal Policy

Press Release June 10, 2009
Media Contact

Stephen Gutwillig at 323-542-2606 or Tommy McDonald at 646-335-2242

Judge George H. Wu has sentenced Charles C. Lynch today to one year and one day in federal prison for running a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay and selling medical marijuana to customers under 21, the federal age of a minor. California law, unlike federal law, considers anyone over 18 to be an adult. Lynch will also be subject to four years’ supervision upon release from prison. Judge Wu, a Bush appointee hearing his first federal case, had delayed sentencing pending clarification of Attorney General Eric Holder’s announced shift in federal medical marijuana policy. H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, directed U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien of Los Angeles to seek a five-year sentence.

“For Charlie Lynch to spend one night in federal prison, let alone a year, is a travesty,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This dispensary operator followed all state and local rules and has been dragged into a legal nightmare right out of Kafka. He is caught between California’s voter-approved medical marijuana system and the Bush administration’s single-minded effort to smother it. That Attorney General Holder changed federal policy three months ago only makes this miscarriage of justice all the more disturbing. Charlie is like a forgotten prisoner of war, abandoned after a truce was declared.”

California is one of 13 states that have legalized marijuana for medical use.In March, Attorney General Holder said the Obama Administration would only target dispensaries that violated both state and federal law, a significant departure from the Bush administration, which aggressively targeted dispensaries in California that complied with state law. Charles Lynch was among the last Californians charged by the Bush administration with violating federal law. His dispensary, Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers had the blessing of the Morro Bay City Council and the Chamber of Commerce. The Mayor attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. The dispensary was raided in March 2007. Lynch was indicted in July 2007, spent four days in jail and was released on $400,000 bail, his parents having put up their house to free him. Among the charges against Lynch were marijuana sales to individuals between the ages of 18 (adults under California law) and 21 (adults under federal law).

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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