Medical Marijuana: Montana Cannabis Under Fire From Feds

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The Department of Justice's crackdown on California medical marijuana might be the most well known in the country, but it's worth paying attention to legal developments in Montana, where U.S. Attorneys are also doing battle with dispensaries.

As detailed by the Helena Independent Record, federal prosectors don't want suspects involved in medical marijuana sales to be able to use Montana state law -- which OKs curative cannabis -- as a legal defense.

So, they are trying to ban any mention of prescription pot -- and any talk of weed-legalizing state statute -- from this and any similar cases.

They counter that the case, which involves Helena-based Montana Cannabis, "is a straightforward matter of illegal drug distribution," the paper notes.

In a legal brief, in fact, U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Thaggard argued: "The intertwined subjects of medical marijuana, Montana law, and medical necessity have no relevance to determining whether the government has proven the crimes charged in the indictment...Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law ... and can't be dispensed under a prescription."

Defense lawyers for Montana Cannabis' Chris Williams and Chris Lindsey dispute the feds' account and legal strategy.

They say that Williams and Lindsey started selling medical marijuana only after federal officials -- even President Barack Obama -- said that the issue was a "low priority for prosectors."

So, Williams and Lindsey argue, sudden Federal scrutiny constitutes as entrapment.

"It's unprecedented that the United States has filed a motion trying to prohibit a defense, but in these medical marijuana cases that's their line of thinking," Michael Donahoe, a federal defense attorney, said. "I want to be frank -- the government is wrong here. This was entrapment."

The U.S. District Court Judge handling the case, Dana Christensen, is currently trying to decide whether to allow mention of medical marijuana.

The trial is set to begin in late September.

Check back for updates.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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