Today I resolved a case that is over 1 year old. My client and I are quite happy with the result. We drew a fantastic judge who sees the "big" picture that marijuana offenders do not need to be sent to prison. Here's what happened.
My client, "Bill", is a doting single father to a 5 year boy with autism. 3 years ago, when his son was diagnosed, he did a ton of research on autism and learned that between the ages of 3-7, with the proper therapeutic intervention, many autistic kids can be mainstreamed into elementary school. That's the good news. The bad news is that it costs an arm and a leg to pay for this type of treatment. The boys mother was (and still is) battling drug and alcohol demons. She had no financial resources to speak of.
Bill looked at all of the legal means to raise $30,000 in a short period of time. Every legitimate place he looked, he was shut down. Bank loans were not available. His parents live along the Ohio River and are not in a position to help. Ohio funding for autism is horrible. Robbing banks and liquor stores was out of the question. Not catching the 4 year windown for his son to be "mainstreamed" was also out of the question.
He researched marijuana cultivation. He rented a condo in an upscale neighborhood. He bought the best equipment and meticulously grew and harvested over 200 marijuana plants. He made a decision to have a very sophisticated, medical grade marijuana grow operation. He resolved to himself that he would only sell to medical patients who sought marijuana's palliative care. Bill discovered a pent up demand of middle aged and elderly folks who were discreetly looking for cannabis. Bill filled that demand. Only small amounts of sale. No middle men. Face to face. "If he was in Colorado or California", he reasoned, "this would be legal". " It is for a good cause" he told himself. "It will be legal in a few more years" he reassured himself.
He put his son in one of the best autism programs in Ohio. He paid cash. $30,000 per year. Nobody asked any questions. He had a reply if anyone did inquire.
Receiving a tip of a possible "grow house", a detective started surveillance on it. He subpoenaed Bill's electric bills as well as that of his neighbors. His electrical use was off the charts. Thermal imaging confirmed the presence of grow lights. Surveillance photos were taken of him going in and out of the condo in which he did not personally live. A search warrant was executed in the summer of 2010. His operation was busted. $23,000 in cash was seized. He was indicted for a 3rd degree felony several months later.
Facing 1-5 years in prison, I worked closely with Bill to understand his story so I could expertly tell his story. We drew a tough prosecutor. We drew a great judge. There was a chance that I could keep Bill from going to prison. Over the span of several months the prosecutor eventually agreed to drop his sentencing recommendation for 1 year in prison. He would remain silent on sentencing. Let the judge decide.
Today, the judge did not order any prison. Bill will spend 24 days in jail sometime in the next year or so, he will have restricted driving for 6 months, and he was placed on basic probation. The cash was forfeited to the law enforcement agency. The mandatory $5000 fine was imposed.
Bottom line: Bill couldn't go to prison as he is the primary caregiver for his little boy who needs his dad's special understanding of autism. I am proud of Bill. He did what he felt he had to do, necessity almost, to take care of his boy. But, I am more proud of the fact he took the consequences of intentionally breaking the law in an honorable way. I don't believe in civil disobedience anymore than I believe in vigilante justice. However, until we do something about the ridiculous marijuana laws in Ohio, create medical marijuana cards, and license guys like Bill to grow, I will stand next to them in court and defend them for their actions.