Yesterday former Montana medical marijuana provider Chris Williams was convicted on eight federal charges, including conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute marijuana and firearms charges. Advocates in the state are reacting to his conviction.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association sent out a press release soon after news of the conviction came down.

(Helena, September 27, 2012)  Chris Williams was found guilty on all counts related to his work at a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver organization, which was the subject of a federal raid in March of 2011. The verdict was reached by the jury shortly after 5:00 p.m. today and Mr. Williams was taken into custody by law enforcement officers. Chris faces mandatory minimum sentences which run into decades, and could be as high as 85 to 90 years. Maximum sentences run for several lifetimes.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Chris Lindsey, president of the MTCIA, and former partner of Chris Williams in 2009. “Federal law needs to change and respect the wishes of the citizens, who overwhelmingly favor the availability of medical marijuana for those in need. Federal law makes no allowance for it, and Mr. Williams will pay a heavy price for the government’s refusal to bend to the will of voters in Montana and around the country.”

Mr. Williams will remain in custody until he is sentenced. A sentencing hearing has not yet been set by the court, but is likely to take place in approximately 90 days.

“It is sad that Chris was tried for what he did and for what he believed in, but he couldn’t actually talk about what happened with the jury,” said Lindsey. “They didn’t get the whole story because of the way criminal trials are run. Chris and his attorney did the best they could to get their story in front of the jury, but the system does not allow it.”

Bob Brigham, spokesperson for Montana First, a group “working to bring sanity to Montana’s marijuana laws,” also released a statement on Chris’ conviction. “Our hearts go out to Mr. Williams,” Bob said, “and it’s a very sad day for all Montanans, who have seen the heavy hand of the federal government ignore and crush the will of voters, who sought a workable compassionate policy on medical marijuana.  Taxpayers have been forced to pay for an expensive prosecution that didn’t even allow Mr. Williams to explain his actions fully to the jury, who in turn were forced to judge him based on a grossly incomplete picture of reality.  One thing is crystal clear: our nation’s failed so-called war on drugs must end, particularly where medical marijuana is concerned in states whose voters and legislators have endorsed it.  We urge all Montanans to send both the federal government and our own legislature the message that suffering patients deserve respect and a medical marijuana program that really works for them, by voting No on IR-124 and insisting on rigorous regulation rather than repeal.”

As we reported earlier this week, Chris’ defense was hampered by an inability to bring up Montana’s medical marijuana laws or claim entrapment after federal officials said they would lay off providers who were legal in their state.

An outrageous tragedy to say the least, a rigged case in favor of the feds, who have no business worrying about Montana’s medical marijuana providers in the first place.

– Joe Klare

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