Ex-medical marijuana provider can't claim entrapment in drug case

2012-09-24T07:20:00Z 2013-02-01T13:18:05Z Ex-medical marijuana provider can't claim entrapment in drug caseThe Associated Press The Associated Press
September 24, 2012 7:20 am  • 

HELENA — A former medical marijuana provider who goes to 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 that 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 one another 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 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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