I have to agree with William Portanova that it’s “mind-boggling” if, in fact, “hundreds” of lawyers in California have been telling their clients they can safely run massive enterprises growing and selling marijuana as long as their customers pretend it’s for medical use.
A five-year mandatory sentence for open and non-violent pot-dealing is absurd; if I’d been the U.S. Attorney, I would have considered charging the case differently to generate a more reasonable sentence. But if you’re growing 2000 plants at a time, and making money at it, you’re precisely the sort of large-scale, for-profit operator Eric Holder promised to go after. Keeping your books accurately is a fine trait, but it doesn’t make illegal activity legal.
California “medical” pot-dealing is a lucrative business precisely because you can go to prison for it. If Matthew Davies genuinely didn’t know that, he should sue whichever diploma mill gave him his M.B.A. And if his lawyer told him that hiring Chris Lehane to lobby against prosecution was likely to work, he must be practicing law on some other planet.
Adam Nagorney seems to sympathize with the defendant – with lots of heart-string tugging about his young family – as if the existence of federal law were a deep mystery that no mere Californian should be expected to figure out. Having a newborn at home is a good reason not to commit big-money crime; it’s not, alas, a good reason not to have to pay the price.
I’m all for rethinking both the structure of federal sentencing and the notch-on-the-gunbelt ethos that has penetrated too many prosecutors’ offices. But Matthew Davies isn’t in the same category as Aaron Swartz.