Medical marijuana argument 'red herring,' judge says at California man's sentencing

Suspect already admitted he had planned to distribute marijuana, records indicate

Trish Mehaffey
Published: October 16 2012 | 12:10 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:04 am in
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A federal judge told a California man last week that his medical marijuana license was a "red herring" because he already admitted that he was going to distribute marijuana, instead of using it to treat a medical condition.

Kelvin Maximillion Stanford of Olivehurst, Calif., was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to two years in prison for possessing nearly three pounds of medical marijuana and a firearm. He pleaded guilty in July to possessing with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana and being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm.

Stanford was stopped on Interstate 80 in January, driving from California to Michigan with nearly three pounds of medical marijuana, a 9mm pistol, a stun baton, and his 2-year-old child and wife, according to court documents. In the rear of his sport-utility vehicle, officers found a travel bag containing the marijuana, and a 9mm pistol and two magazines loaded with ammunition in another bag nearby. Stanford had put the pistol and ammunition in his wife's bag without her knowledge, according to the documents.

A stun baton was also found underneath the driver's seat, which Stanford said was for "personal protection," according to court documents. Officers also recovered a drug ledger with notes relating to Stanford's marijuana customers, according to the documents.

Stanford had previously said he grew the marijuana under a California-issued medical marijuana license and that he gave people marijuana in return for “donations.” Stanford had a medical marijuana license in his SUV at the time of his arrest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham said Tuesday possessing marijuana is a violation of federal law, regardless of a medical marijuana license, which is only valid in the state of California. Chatham said he didn't think the medical marijuana issue had been raised before in Iowa's northern district, regarding a possession or distribution charge.

According to California law, a person with an appropriate medical condition, when recommended by a doctor has a right to obtain and use marijuana. However, the law doesn't supersede federal law, which classifies it as a controlled substance and prohibits the use of marijuana.

A recent case involving a man who operated a medical marijuana dispensary highlights the contrast of California law with federal law. Aaron Sandusky, 41, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., was convicted last Friday in federal court for operating his business, despite the fact that such shops are legal in the state, according to the Huffington Post. He now faces 10 years to life in prison.

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