Chris Lindsey, a former partner in the Helena-based medical marijuana business Montana Cannabis, won’t spend any time in prison if a federal court judge follows a recommendation by federal prosecutors.
In court documents filed this week, Joseph Thaggard and Paulette Stewart, with the U.S. Attorney’s office, propose that Lindsey, 45, be sentenced to five years of probation, with six months of house arrest. The recommendation is based on his poor health, as well as that of his wife. Prosecutors note that Lindsey, who is an attorney, is the primary breadwinner in the family and they have an 8-year-old son to support.
“… the defendant and his wife are both ill, they have a young child who requires their care, the defendant does not pose a threat to commit new crimes and the cost of the defendant’s medical care is not something that should be foisted on the taxpayers,” Thaggard wrote in court documents.
Lindsey, who suffers from ulcerative colitis and/or Crohn’s Disease, is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to maintain drug premises. He declined to comment on the sentencing memorandum by Thaggard, other than to say he appreciates the recommendation.
In court records, Thaggard notes that although Lindsey was one of the founding members of Montana Cannabis in 2009, his active participation in the conspiracy was “relatively short-lived,” lasting from March 2009 until January 2010.
The four partners in Montana Cannabis all played distinct roles. Their goal was to create a “gold standard” company that hired employees, paid taxes and operated in complete compliance with Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act, overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004.
Lindsey was tasked with writing up the legal partnership agreement. Thomas Daubert, a lobbyist who helped pass the medical marijuana law, was the public face of the company. Christopher Williams was the farmer, based on his knowledge of how to grow marijuana. Richard Flor and his family had been growing marijuana for years at their Miles City home, and they also were licensed caregivers who sold marijuana from home and from a store in Billings.
Thaggard argues that in fact, the group wasn’t in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, and notes that even though Lindsey may not have committed the violations, since he was part of the conspiracy he’s responsible for the actions of his partners.
Those violations include purchasing and selling bulk marijuana to the proprietors of Big Sky Patient Care, which was found to be unlawful in a 2012 court case. Thaggard said Montana Cannabis also manufactured and distributed hashish, which a separate court ruling in 2012 found does not qualify as medical marijuana.
“Accordingly, it is a controlled substance that may not be possessed or sold under the provisions of the Montana Controlled Substances Act,” Thaggard wrote in his brief.
He noted that in early 2011, a Montana Cannabis employee sold marijuana to an undercover police officer in Billings, who was not a patient of the company, violating the terms of the medical marijuana act that required caregivers only provide marijuana to their own patients.
After pleading guilty to various drug charges, Richard Flor was sentenced to five years in prison, but died behind bars from medical complications. Daubert was sentenced to five years of probation. Williams, the only medical marijuana provider to fight federal charges, was found guilty of eight drug-related counts and is in federal prison awaiting sentencing. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of between 85 to 92 years, depending on various calculations.
Sentencing for both Williams and Lindsey is set for early January.
Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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