A Life Sentence... For Pot?
In March of 2011, federal agents in hazmat suits — guns brandished and sirens blaring — raided dozens of marijuana greenhouses and dispensaries in Montana, and arrested citizens who were growing pot in accordance with the state’s medical marijuana law. It all happened without warning — unlike in California and other states where fair notice, and lead time, was given to folks so they could close up shop. The timing of the raids was highly suspicious. They took place on the very day — the very hour, in fact — that the Montana Legislature was holding a much-anticipated hearing on how to tweak the medical marijuana statute, so as to cut down on recreational use and sham prescriptions, and also to clarify several parts of the law that were ambiguous.
The top federal prosecutor in Montana — Mike Cotter, the U.S. attorney appointed by President Obama in 2009 — then charged the growers, their greenhouse workers, their bookkeepers, some of their spouses, and even their landlords who had simply provided buildings to the growers with decades in prison and in some cases virtual life sentences, all under federal drug trafficking statutes.
Now Cotter is breaking his silence and speaking publicly, for the first time, about his two-year crusade to shutter the medical marijuana industry and put its practitioners behind bars, in many cases for life sentences. And he is mincing no words. He says that pot has no medical value at all, for anyone, and that if you think otherwise, you are a sucker who has been duped “by slick Madison Avenue marketing” employed by pot dealers. He says pot is a dangerous drug and growing it is a federal crime that must be punished.
The opposite of what doctors have long believed about the benefits of marijuana for many patients, these comments go a long way in explaining much of what happened in Montana over the last two years.
When Cotter charged these citizens in 2011, he gave no credence to a very basic protest that they all made: they’d been assured in writing, by Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general, that they could grow medical marijuana and the feds wouldn’t prosecute them.
- Read the entire article at Salon Magazine.