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Morro Bay medical marijuana trial resumes

April 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The judge had delayed sentencing for one month to clarify the Justice Department's policy on medical marijuana prosecutions. All parties were back in court Thursday afternoon for a possible ruling. It appears the judge needs more time. Defendant Charles Lynch sat silently in court, at times wiping away tears. Dozens of proponents of medical marijuana and Lynch supporters packed the courtroom, while his defense attorney called witnesses to speak on Lynch's behalf.

Lynch's brother asked the court to show leniency.

Another witness, a young man suffering from bone cancer, said Lynch's medical marijuana business in Morro Bay, California, gave him relief from the nausea of chemotherapy treatments.

Charles Lynch, 46, was convicted last August on five federal counts of running a medical marijuana dispensary and selling medical marijuana to customers under 21.

Selling medical marijuana is legal in California in certain instances, but banned under federal law, which supersedes state law.

The government contends that Lynch not only violated federal law, but California law as well.

Judge George H. Woo previously delayed sentencing to get clarification from the U.S. Attorney's office, after new Attorney General Eric Holder announced federal authorities would not prosecute medical marijuana shop owners if they complied with local laws.

Thursday Judge Woo said he received a written response from the U.S. Attorney's office instructing him that the prosecution and conviction of Lynch are: "Entirely consistent with the policies with the Department of Justice and with statements made by Attorney General Holder."

Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters is a supporter of Lynch. She says his business was low-key and professional.

"Charlie Lynch got trapped between two opposing laws, federal and state law," said Mayor Peters. "And for him to be the martyr of that seems a little bit unfair. I think that he's already been put through a lot, and I think that any further punishment is not really merited for a business that he operated openly and under the city municipal codes."


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