Montana medical marijuana provider Chris Williams on Thursday was found guilty on all eight counts related to his work at a state-licensed medicinal cannabis caregiver organization, which was the subject of a federal raid in March of 2011.
The case was seen as a big test of the federal raids of state-compliant medical marijuana in the Big Sky State. Williams ran the Helena greenhouse of Montana Cannabis, where federal agents seized 950 plants in March 2011.
The operation was the biggest of the 26 medical marijuana providers raided that day across Montana.
The verdict was reached by the jury shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday, and Williams was immediately taken into custody by law enforcement officers. He was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute marijuana; and firearms charges.
Williams 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 Montana Cannabis Industry Association, 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,” Lindsey said.
Williams will remain in custody until he is sentenced. A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set by the court, but is likely to take place in about 90 days.
Medical marijuana defendants — even those abiding by state law — are not allowed to mention the medicinal status of their cannabis, as the federal government doesn’t recognize state medical marijuana laws.
“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.”