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IE man gets 10 years for running marijuana clinics

January 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A Rancho Cucamonga man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday for running an illegal marijuana business.

Aaron Sandusky was arrested in June with his brother and four other people. Sandusky operated three marijuana clinics through G3 Holistics Inc.

Federal authorities ordered the clinics closed in 2011. Sandusky was convicted Monday of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana involving at least 1,000 plants.

A video posted on YouTube by Aaron Sandusky became evidence in the federal narcotics case against him. Monday he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana involving at least 1,000 plants.

Sandusky never disputed that that he operated the dispensaries. He believed he would be shielded from prosecution by California's medical marijuana statutes. Even after the DEA raided his Upland operation twice, he was not deterred.

Monday his former clients and the support group Human Solutions protested minutes after the 10-year sentence was pronounced.

"The man was full of heart and full of hope for me because finally I was without pain," said medical marijuana patient Buryldean Andrews.

Yet the prosecution said Sandusky built a "veneer of legitimacy" using his customers' good-faith search for pain relief.

Judge Percy Anderson in sentencing said the defendant had been warned a number of times. The DEA told him verbally and in writing to shut down his operation.

Sandusky's attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, asked for leniency pointing to a patchwork of pot laws. In many communities, dispensaries are allowed, providing they grow their own marijuana, just as Sandusky did.

Diamond said even President Obama has urged prosecutors exercise discretion in marijuana cases, to go after major offenders.

"The problem is federal government has been very arbitrary and haphazard in deciding whom to prosecute and who not to prosecute," said Diamond.

Yet prosecutors called Sandusky an "unrepentant manipulator" who used the "perceived ambiguity" in the law to exploit a business opportunity for himself.

The defense says they will appeal. What would really help, they say, is for lawmakers to make a more uniform policy between state and federal laws across the nation.

Prosecutors say the business was illegal, relying on a "veneer of legitimacy" under California's medical marijuana law. Prosecutors allege Sandusky sold marijuana after his real estate business collapsed.

The other defendants pleaded guilty before trial and are awaiting sentencing.