As we pointed out in our post “Understanding the Conflict Between Federal Law and Washington Initiative 502,” possession and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law even as states push to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use. We quoted Jenny Durkan, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, as stating that the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) “responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged” in the face of state initiatives like Washington Initiative 502, that legalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana. 

Adam Nagourny of the New York Times reported today on the sobering case of Matthew R. Davies, who was indicted last July on federal charges of cultivating marijuana, following a DOJ raid on two dispensaries and a warehouse filled with nearly 2,000 marijuana plants that Davies owned and operated. Davies reportedly saw a big business opportunity after California legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. “We thought, this is an industry in its infancy, it’s a heavy cash business, it’s basically being used by people who use it to cloak illegal activity,” Nagourny quotes Davies as saying. “Nobody was doing it the right way. We thought we could make a model of how this should be done.”

Elliot Peters, the lawyer for Mr. Davies, said his client fully complied with California law permitting medical marijuana use. “This is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana,” Mr. Peters wrote. “Here, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.” 

The prosecuting attorney in the case, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin B. Wagner, remains unbowed. “Mr. Davies was not a seriously ill user of marijuana nor was he a medical caregiver — he was the major player in a very significant commercial operation that sought to make large profits from the cultivation and sale of marijuana,” Wagner wrote in a letter addressed to Mr. Davies’ lawyers. Wagner added that prosecuting people like Davies “remains a core priority of the [DOJ].” 

Read Nagourny’s full report (subscription required).