Outrage at Potential Sentence for Montana Marijuana Grower

Chris Williams is sitting in a private federal prison on the Montana prairie these days awaiting sentencing. If the federal government has its way, he won't be a free man again for three-quarters of a century, an effective life sentence for a middle-aged man like Williams.

So, what did he do that merits such a harsh sentence? Did he murder someone? Did he rape, pillage, and plunder? No. He grew medical marijuana. And, as is not uncommon in Montana, he had guns around as he did so. Standing on firm conviction, he steadfastly refused repeated plea bargain offers from federal prosecutors, which could have seen him serving "only" 10 years or so.

Williams is one of the more than two dozen Montana medical marijuana providers caught up in the federal dragnet after mass raids in March 2011 savaged the state's medical marijuana community, including Montana Cannabis, one of the state's largest providers, where he was a partner. A true believer in the cause, Williams is the only one of those indicted after the federal raids to not cop a plea, and he was convicted on eight federal marijuana and weapons charges in September after being blocked from mentioning the state's medical marijuana laws during his trial.

It is the gun charges that are adding decades to his sentences. As is the case in drug raids where police come up against armed homeowners, or as was the case of Salt Lake City rap record label owner and pot dealer Weldon Angelos ended up with a 55-year sentence because he sometimes packed a pistol, the Williams case is one where the rights granted under the 2nd Amendment clash with the imperatives of the drug war.

Williams was not convicted of using his firearms or even of brandishing them, but merely of having legal shotguns present at the medical marijuana grow, which was legal under Montana law. Still, that's enough for the gun sentencing enhancements to kick in, and that's enough to cause a rising clamor of support for Williams as he faces a January sentencing date.

"The sentence shocks the conscience," said Chris Lindsey, a former business partner of Williams who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a federal marijuana conspiracy charge. "Look at (former Penn State assistant football coach) Jerry Sandusky. For 45 counts of child sexual abuse, he gets 30 years. Chris Williams is going to get three times that for being a medical marijuana provider. It doesn't make any logical sense," he told the Missoulian.

Williams supporters have created a Free Chris Williams Facebook page and are petitioning the White House through its We the People online petition program for a full pardon for him. The White House responds to petitions that achieve over 25,000 signatures; the Williams petition has managed to generate slightly more than 20,000 signatures in less than two weeks. Other petitions seeking clemency for Williams are at SignOn.org and Care2.com.

Williams and his supporters are not just relying on the kindness of the White House. He is appealing his criminal conviction to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and he is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that claims he and other medical marijuana providers were in compliance with Montana state law and the federal raid and subsequent prosecutions were an unconstitutional usurpation of state and local powers under the 10th Amendment. That amendment says powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution and not prohibited by the states are reserved to the states or the people.

But legal experts said his chances for victory in the civil lawsuit were small, and he would still be saddled with the federal criminal conviction.

"The war on drugs is too sacrosanct a sacred cow for the courts to weigh in favor," said California marijuana attorney Robert Raich, who has argued and lost two marijuana cases at the Supreme Court. "I think we can make better progress by doing something other than filing lawsuits," he said in an interview with the Helena Independent Record.

Still, Raich said he sympathized with Williams' plight and added that the federal attack on Montana providers was among its harshest.

"Montana is the worst," he said. "The federal government has attacked medical cannabis with a vengeance in Montana more than any other state."

Williams' attorney in the civil suit, Paul Livingston, said he would press forward with the appeal even if his client is behind bars.

"He has been made a martyr," said attorney Livingston. "It's a very solid case, it is a case that needs to be decided and I think everyone would agree once they learn the facts of what happened," Livingston said.

Ironically, as Williams languishes behind bars contemplating spending the rest of his life in prison, Montana could become the next state to legalize marijuana. Medical marijuana activists there, frustrated by the legislature's gutting of their program last year and their inability to get that overturned this year, have filed papers to put a legalization initiative on the ballot in 2014. Even that wouldn't directly help Williams, but it would serve to further underline the senselessness of his sentence.

– Read the entire article at Stop the Drug War, used with permission.



  1. gutrod on

    Government powers out of control in America the free. Your government chases cannabis users and suppliers with as much or more vigor than they did Communists back in the Cold War Era. It is not only sad, it is pathetic. Friggin Bullies. Same in Canada where the current Harper regime punishes cannabis offenders with harsher mandatory sentences than pedophiles. They must be all smoking crack or injecting booze into their veins. All in the name of God and right wing Christian ideology. Eventually the masses will take to the streets to stand up for democratic rights and freedoms. Rock and roll.

  2. gutrod on

    There is a lot of good in America, but their justice system is one of the cruelest in the world. We talk about Islam living in the dark ages. People were freer and safer back in the 70’s before Nixon unleashed his dirty war on drugs. Their government and their Gestapo drug agents should hang their heads in shame. Cannabis prohibition laws based on evidence like the movie Reefer Madness. The only madness resulting is the feds on a power trip created in hell. America the Free should release all cannabis offenders from their gulags, Marc Emery included. Wake up. This is the 21st century.

  3. albinorat on

    I live in Nevada, if you murder someone here and are convicted and sentenced to life without parole you can get out in twelve years with good behavior,what the fuck is wrong with this picture,destroy the DEA and overthrow this fucked up government of ours!!!



    Even though the term “marijuana” is found
    in the patent description information,
    the title usually just shows a cannabinoid,
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    Searching US Patent Collection…
    PAT. NO. Title

    1 7,844,363 Vending machine apparatus to dispense herbal medications
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    24 7,816,143 Oral detection test for cannabinoid use

    51 7,759,526 Pharmaceutical compositions comprising cannabidiol derivatives

    52 7,759,335 Cannabinoid receptor antagonists/inverse agonists useful for treating metabolic disorders,
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    55 7,754,188 Radiolabeled cannabinoid-1 receptor modulators

    56 7,750,039 Indoles are cannabinoid receptor ligands

    58 7,749,772 Antibody and immunoassays for determining the presence of .DELTA..sup.9-Tetrahydrocannabinol

    59 7,745,440 Pyrazole analogs acting on cannabinoid receptors

    60 7,741,365 Peripheral cannabinoid receptor (CB2) selective ligands

    74 7,709,647 Tetrahydroquinoline cannabinoid receptor modulators

    84 7,687,481 Cannabinoid receptor antagonists/inverse agonists useful for treating obesity

    89 7,674,922 Process for production of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol

    97 7,666,867 Heteroindanes: a new class of potent cannabimimetic ligands

    102 7,655,685 Cannabinoid receptor antagonists/inverse agonists useful for treating metabolic disorders,
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    106 7,652,141 Pyridone derivatives having a binding activity to the cannabinoid type 2 receptor

    113 7,648,696 Composition for inhalation comprising delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in a semiaqueous solvent

    125 7,629,342 Azabicyclic heterocycles as cannabinoid receptor modulators

    134 7,611,858 Detection of cannabinoid receptor biomarkers and uses thereof

    143 7,592,468 Production of .DELTA. 9 tetrahydrocannabinol

    158 7,572,808 Triazolopyridine cannabinoid receptor 1 antagonists

    159 7,572,785 Substituted imidazoles as cannabinoid receptor modulators

    168 7,560,481 Indoles are cannabinoid receptor ligands

    178 7,524,881 Production of .DELTA. 9 tetrahydrocannabinol

    183 7,517,874 Substituted imidazo[1,5-a][1,4]diazepines and imidazo[1,5-a]pyrazines as cannabinoid
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    199 7,482,470 Cannabinoid receptor antagonists/inverse agonists useful for treating metabolic disorders,
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