As a former Billings resident, I want to offer another perspective to the May 12 article titled "Federal crackdown busts medical-marijuana industry." The story details the March 2011 raids on businesses in plain sight and says the resulting prosecutions were "widely seen as a success and possibly a model for others."
The author failed to account for some things in his "final scorecard" of 33 convictions. Most importantly, a death toll is omitted. Richard Flor was the state's first registered caregiver and the first defendant to be sentenced. An aging Vietnam veteran, Flor's family warned the judge that he would not survive prison. Flor died four months into his five-year sentence. His widow, Sherry, is serving a two-year prison sentence for working as a bookkeeper.
The article mentions a "three-year investigation" that culminated with a trio of statewide sting operations, but the DEA first began investigating Flor in 2006. His business partner, Chris Williams, wasn't sentenced until February of this year.
This brings me to another fact that was noticeably absent in the scorecard: the financial toll. Between funding a six-year investigation into Flor and the costs of two separate jury trials, the amount of taxpayer dollars squandered is unfathomable. This doesn't begin to account for the death of a beloved family member and the imprisonment of dozens of legitimate business owners and employees.
The costs to society are immeasurable. To call it a "success" is a tragic characterization of an alarming waste of money and human lives.