Pot Dispensary Operator Pleads Guilty; Gets 3 Years — But Why?


Photo: NY Real Estate Lawyers’ Blog

​A Lake Forest, California medical marijuana dispenary owner/manager pleaded guilty Tuesday to unlawful sales of marijuana.

Steven John Wick, 26, owner and operator of The Health Collective (THC) in Lake Forest, pleaded guilty to unlawful sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, and admitted to sentencing enhancements of committing a crime while he was free on bail in a separate case, reports Larry Welborn at The Orange County Register.
Wick was sentenced to three years in state prison, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Photo: Orange County D.A.
Steven Wick is headed to prison for operating a medical marijuana dispensary

​As part of Wick’s plea agreement, he will also plead guilty next week to possession of marijuana for sale and possessing more than $25,000 obtrained through “illegal drug sales” in his other 2009 Orange County case, according to District Attorney spokesperson Farrah Emami.
Wick, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., will be sentenced to an additional year in prison on that case, according to Emami.
Wick’s plea bargain is a done deal, and the man is headed to prison for a least a couple years. Under California’s corrections system, he’ll be required, as a non-violent offender, to serve at least half of his sentence.
But an interested observer of the California medical marijuana scene cannot help asking, “Why?”
California medical marijuana dispensary cases — even in conservative Southern California, as evidenced by a couple of recent, high-profile spectacular losses by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis — have proven extremely hard to win for law enforcement.
Judging by the track record, and by the fact that the defendant was only charged with violating California state law, Wick would have stood a very good chance of winning his case.
Are there other factors involved? If, as seems likely, Wick was threatened with an even longer prison sentence if he went to trial and lost, why did a conviction seem likely enough to make a plea bargain seem like a good idea?
Wick was charged along with employees Marilyn Geneva Manuel, 29, a manager at THC (who pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession for sale of marijuana) and Tara Elizabeth Sorenson, 22 (charged with three felony counts of the sale of marijuana, and one felony count for possession of marijuana).
The three were accused of selling pot to legal patients, with a physician’s recommendation, but “without any relationship” to those customers and without “requiring or requesting them to participate in collectively or cooperative cultivating marijuana,” according to Emami.
Requiring ailing medical marijuana patients to physically participate in the cultivation of plants seems to defeat the purpose of dispensaries, which are often defined as a treatment option for patients who are unable to grow marijuana for themselves.
How many more providers in California are going to plea bargain and accept prison time for such a absurdly narrow interpretation of the medical marijuana law?