Online petitions seek to free Montana medical marijuana grower

Over 40,000 have signed
2012-11-23T10:05:00Z 2012-12-29T00:02:54Z Online petitions seek to free Montana medical marijuana growerBy GWEN FLORIO Missoulian Helena Independent Record
November 23, 2012 10:05 am  • 

Medical marijuana grower Chris Williams is seeking a new trial after being convicted in a federal drug and weapons case that carries the potential for a prison sentence of up to 92 years. He’s appealing, but his supporters aren’t waiting for the justice system.

They’ve taken his cause to the Internet, in the form of online petitions filed with the White House, with SignOn.org, and with Care2.com. Together, they’ve gathered close to 40,000 signatures nationwide.

“The sentence shocks the conscience,” said Chris Lindsey, a former business partner of Williams who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a federal drug conspiracy charge. Williams rejected a similar plea agreement.

“Look at (former Penn State assistant football coach) Jerry Sandusky,” Lindsey said. “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.”

Lindsey said he’s signed “a few” of the petitions to pardon Williams. Others may have signed multiple petitions, too. But the action likely is largely symbolic.

Lindsey points out that petitioning a judge – one petition at MoveOn’s SignOn site and another at Care2 are addressed to U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen of Missoula – is probably ineffective because judges are so limited by sentencing guidelines.

The White House petition that seeks a full pardon for Williams goes straight to President Barack Obama, who’s pardoned fewer people – just 22, and one commutation – than any president since John Adams, NPR reported Wednesday, citing numbers provided by P.S. Ruckman Jr., a Rock Valley (Ill.) College professor who studies pardons.

“Do people think Chris Williams is going to be the guy to change that?” Lindsey asked.


Williams was among several people in Montana indicted on federal drug offenses after federal agents raided large medical marijuana operations around the state in March 2011. Montana voters legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2004. Medical cannabis businesses proliferated around the state after a 2009 federal memo that many interpreted as saying the feds would back off prosecuting such operations.

Most of those indicted after the 2011 raids accepted plea agreements, usually involving conspiracy charges. Sentences have ranged from a few years in prison to probation, the latter most notably in the case of Tom Daubert, a partner with Lindsey and Williams at Montana Cannabis in Helena.

But Williams insisted upon a trial, and in September a federal jury in Helena convicted him of eight drug and weapons charges. Afterward, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter of Montana offered to drop six of those charges if Williams waived his right to appeal his conviction and sentencing – an unusual move that would have reduced his potential sentence to 10 years.

As with the plea offers, Williams turned down that one, too.

His stance throughout has been that because Montana Cannabis operated legally under state law, the feds had no business prosecuting him, even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“I have decided to fight the federal government, because for me not defending the things that I know are right is dishonorable,” Williams wrote in a letter to the Helena Independent Record last month. “Every citizen has a responsibility to fight for what is right, even if it seems like the struggle will be lost.”

His federal defender, Michael Donahoe, is fighting via the system. On Tuesday, he filed a second request for a new trial for Williams on at least five of the charges, saying a ruling Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals provides a path for that trial.


During the legal machinations, Williams remains in a private prison in Shelby.

One of the petitions, which collected more than 2,300 signatures, urged Christensen to release him while he awaits word on a new trial. But U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Keith Strong ruled last week he won’t be released pending appeal.

As for the other petitions on his behalf, appeals to the White House must gather 25,000 signatures within 30 days to be considered. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 19,000 people had signed the Williams petition, which has a Dec. 12 deadline.

Five of the top 10 petitions to the White House involve legalizing marijuana and none has been approved, the Wall Street Journal reported this past summer.

Two different SignOn petitions also ask Obama to pardon Williams. By Wednesday afternoon, one petition – started on Nov. 10 by a Palmdale, Calif., resident – had collected about 150 signatures of the 200 sought. The other was launched Nov. 9 by a Seeley Lake resident, and had 72 signatures of the 100 sought.

“I don’t even use marijuana and I fully support the pardoning of Chris Williams and any other people that have been prosecuted for possession or growing it,” wrote a Long Island City, N.Y., woman.

Meanwhile, the Care2 petition asking Christensen to reverse Williams’ conviction has collected nearly 19,000 signatures since it launched Nov. 15.

Such petitions, whether they help Williams or not, “are a way to organization in a non-election setting,” said Bob Brigham, who was the campaign manager for Patients for Reform, Not Repeal.

That group sought unsuccessfully to roll back stringent controls on medical marijuana enacted by the 2011 Legislature.

Signing a petition “is one of the things that advocates can be doing before the next election to push the issue,” Brigham said.

Seventeen states have legalized the medical use of marijuana in some form, and in the most recent election, voters in Colorado and Washington approved its recreational use.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. freedomsearcher2442
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    freedomsearcher2442 - November 29, 2012 7:30 am
    I had to create an account, I cannot ignore this ignorance. What happens to states rights to governs its people? Montana's people have voted marijuana legalization for medicinal use and what right does the federal government have to impose their regulations there? You would rather this man spend the rest of his life in prison, spending our tax dollars to imprison him for selling a plant under state law and regulation. The sentiment seems to be that he got what he deserved, you do realize that we the people pay for this? Maybe you are okay with imprisoning people who cultivate a grow a plant that, as so many of you seem to hate on it for, is not only smoked but can also be baked in foods and candy, tea, skin oils and lotions, and inhaled through a vaporizer. Wake up America please our future depends on it, stop following our government blindly they do not have our best interests in mind.
  2. Bob Fanning
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    Bob Fanning - November 24, 2012 2:39 pm
    I don't use drugs or liquor ever and am a champion of sobriety . There is a real holistic place for Medical marijuana as prescribed to the patient by his doctor, protected by Constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy, despite the Missouri River Task force and the justice & incarcerations industry. Big Pharma and their lobby are purchasing the destruction of the 10th amendment , dual sovreignty, and the consent of the governed .
    Americans should know that the federal government not only picks winners and losers in the auto and banking industry, but they are propping up Mexican drug cartels. . Federal authorities in the United States have been quietly supporting certain Mexican criminal empires, especially the Sinaloa drug cartel, in a bid to solidify the syndicates’ reign as dominant powerbrokers in particular territories, according to leaked e-mails from a U.S.-based Mexican diplomat to the private intelligence firm Stratfor. If cartel chiefs cooperate with authorities, “governments will allow controlled drug trades,” the diplomatic source wrote. Other information unearthed so far in the leak, much of it coming from a variety of sources, was equally explosive. One 2011 e-mail from an individual described by Stratfor as “a US law enforcement officer with direct oversight of border investigations,” for example, indicated that American troops were already operating in Mexico under the guise of the drug war. This isn't about medical marijuana prohabition . It's about a federal monopoly on drug sales..FREE ALL AMERICANS INCARCERATED FOR NON VIOLENT POT CRIMES AND EXPONGE THEIR RECORDS NOW.
  3. kevin_hunt
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    kevin_hunt - November 24, 2012 11:05 am
    "Every day there are many people passing away that are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s. You ever wonder why?"

    It's because of heart disease caused by fatty foods and diabetes caused by sugar. Prescription drug deaths now outnumber car fatalities.

    Marijuana does not increase mortality. Try having a rational thought for once.

    According to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base:

    "Compared to most other drugs … dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare … [A]lthough few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs."
  4. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - November 24, 2012 9:27 am
    He is where he belongs.
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    JUSTDAFACTS - November 24, 2012 9:06 am
    Oh lord…speaking of believing lies. Really, this is about “big business”? What, is Wal-Mart scared pot will destroy them? Or is it the big petroleum companies like Exxon or Phillips Petroleum? Maybe the “big Businesses” being protected are Coke or Pepsi. Are they afraid potheads will drink Tea instead? Give me a break.

    Now at least you have a slightly more credible story on “Big Pharma” to those who are high and can’t reason clearly. You see, if they actually believed this schedule 1 drug had clear medical benefits they would be producing it as they do MANY other schedule 1 drugs. Then there is the argument that they feel they will lose money to the “magical” cure everything nature of this drug. Well, aside from the obvious silliness of the whole “magical” argument, there are not many drugs which “big pharma” will not be able to sell or sell as much of due to pot use. It may be useful in helping to combat nausea in Cancer patients caused by chemo the treatments. But that does NOT reduce the treatments or the costs. While I have seen evidence that ingredients in marijuana may have a true medical benefit for glaucoma…which medications will “big pharma” not be able to sell?

    As well, where is all the evidence that “big pharma” has even tried to get involved in the state initiatives attempting to legalize pot use? Where is the evidence that they have lobbied congress to strengthen your imaginary protections of them by the government? Where is the evidence that they have done anything in relation to this subject? Do you make up all sorts of conspiracy theories or just ones about pot?

    Maybe we should discuss the lie that smoking pot is less harmful on your lungs than smoking tobacco? Or the claim it cures cancer based ONLY upon one doctor with two patients and no actual study?

    Fight for the use of pot should you wish. I have no real problem with that. However, that it may or may not be much worse than alcohol or tobacco, two of the biggest scourges on our society, is not much of an affirmative argument. It is, however, a more realistic argument than your “big pharma” and “big business” conspiracy theories. Pretending it has magical cures everything powers is a joke. If you have to promote lies, half-truths and crazy conspiracy theories to support your position, you seriously need to rethink your position.

    For instance:
    "Marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke contain many of the same toxins, including one which has been identified as a key factor in the promotion of lung cancer. This toxin is found in the tar phase of both, and it should be noted that one joint has four times more tar than a cigarette, which means that the lungs are exposed four-fold to this toxin and others in the tar. It has been concretely established that smoking cigarettes promotes lung cancer (which causes more than 125,000 deaths in the US every year), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and increased incidence of respiratory tract infections. This implies, but does not establish, that smoking marijuana may lead to some of the same results as smoking cigarettes. It is notable that several reports indicate an unexpectedly large proportion of marijuana users among cases of lung cancer and cancers of the oral cavity,pharynx, and larynx. Thus, it appears that the use of marijuana as a medicine has the potential to further harm an already ill patient in the same way that taking up regular cigarette smoking would, particularly in light of the fact that those patients for whom marijuana is recommended are already poorly equipped to fight off these infections and diseases."

  6. RationalThought
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    RationalThought - November 24, 2012 8:52 am
    Hey Chris Lindsey, I got news for ya. Sandusky should have received a harsher sentence. Williams' is perfectly reasonable. Just because Sandusky got less does not mean Williams should get less. Sandusky should have got a longer sentence and Williams should rot in prison for distributing poison. Look how pot makes you think. Sad. More evidence is located on a related article where a woman actually wants to write into the constitution that drug use should be encouraged. You ever read the obituaries? Every day there are many people passing away that are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s. You ever wonder why?
  7. Hobbit
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    Hobbit - November 24, 2012 6:35 am
    You have been brainwashed by 70 years of government propaganda, designed to protect Big Business and especially Big Pharma. I am sorry you are unable to separate truth from lies.
  8. BillCunnane
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    BillCunnane - November 23, 2012 8:29 pm
    The whitehouse has already declared they have NO intention of chaning its stand on marijuana. Its illegal, illegal to sell or grow for sale. Williams broke the law, was found guilty (rightly so) and is going to have to pay for his crime. Thats the bottom line and should serve as an example to those who think they are above the law to rethink their actions before they too are raided, found guilty and face serious jail time.

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