By Molly Priddy, 4-24-12
||Caption: Protesters picket outside of Kalispell City Hall last year. - File photo by Molly Priddy/Flathead Beacon
Over a year after dozens of medical marijuana businesses were raided throughout the state, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released more information on the results of the searches and charges brought against the purveyors.
According to a statement from Michael Cotter, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana, agents executed 26 criminal search warrants and four civil search warrants during the March 2011 raids.
Various law enforcement personnel searched medical marijuana businesses in multiple communities across the state, including in Kalispell, Whitefish and Olney, focusing their investigations on “criminal networks” in alleged violations of federal law.
Though medical marijuana is legal in Montana, cannabis is still considered an illegal Schedule I substance by the federal government. Before the raids last year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had said the federal government would not use its resources to go after people using medical marijuana in accordance with state law.
The recently released statement acknowledged the conflict between federal and state law, but asserted that the federal law prohibiting the manufacture and distribution of marijuana trumps Montana’s medical marijuana statute.
“Because of the danger posed by Schedule I substances, the Department of Justice continues to focus its enforcement and investigative efforts in targeting large-scale drug organizations that cultivate, manufacture, distribute or sell marijuana,” the statement said.
As a result of the 2011 raids, more than 25 people have been indicted by federal grand juries for multiple violations, including marijuana manufacturing and distribution, evading currency reporting and money laundering.
As of April 13, 12 people have been convicted and sentenced for charges stemming from the raids.
The dozen already prosecuted include several Flathead Valley residents: Ryan Blindheim of Whitefish, sentenced to 18 months in custody and four years of supervised release for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and money laundering charges; Evan Corum of Whitefish, sentenced to six months in custody and three years of supervised release for laundering charges; Michael Kassner of Kalispell, sentenced to a year and a day in custody and three years of supervised release for a conspiracy to manufacture charge; and Tyler Roe of Kalispell, sentenced to a year and a day in custody and seven years of supervised release for a conspiracy to manufacture charge.
In a prepared statement, Cotter said federal law clearly states that the manufacture, distribution, possession and use of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana will continue to support investigations and prosecutions of significant traffickers of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, in an effort to disrupt and dismantle illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks in Montana and elsewhere,” Cotter said.
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