Sentencing for Leader of Multicounty Pot Operation
Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) states that a licensed person, with a state-issued caregiver card, may grow up to 12 plants per registered patient. And the licensed caregiver may not have more than 5 other patients, not including themselves. Assuming of course that they are registered as a patient as well. More than that and they are no longer covered by the law. And that’s the point at which a person suddenly transitions over from being a licensed caregiver to being a drug dealer.
Which is why Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Courtade is calling Shawn Taylor the self acclaimed “King of Marijuana”. In a recent sentencing memorandum, the federal prosecutor explained that when the state passed the MMMA, Taylor hoped it was “only a matter of time before his illegal avocation could become his vocation.”
A year ago, Courtade explained in the 44-page indictment, Taylor and his co-conspirators “were not attempting to alleviate the suffering of ‘patients’ assigned to them; rather, they were attempting to profit from the sale of the marijuana they produced.” This was not about helping people, he said, it was about making money. Lots of money.
But according to Taylor’s defense attorney, that wasn’t how Taylor saw himself at all. In fact, he simply viewed himself as a pioneer in an “emerging legal industry”. When he began this endeavor he was fully in compliance with state law as a licensed caregiver, and never intended to go against the law.
But things got a little out of hand. The money was good, and the law seemed to provide the perfect cover for what he was doing. Taylor hired other growers, paid for their licensing requirements, and then took a cut of their profits. He paid doctors to recruit patients, and then paid for the patients licensing paperwork. He bought land to grow more plants on.
Taylor became complacent. He assumed that his legally granted state ID card made him immune from prosecution. Untouchable by the law. After all, medical pot was legal, so all was well. But the law has a number of loopholes. And it seems to change regularly with regards to issues like the legality of “medibles” and patient to patient transfers.
And then there’s that other thing…. the fact that under federal law any quantity of marijuana, for any reason, is illegal. Suddenly Taylor’s whole world blew up.
Taylor, along with 36 other people were indicted on federal drug charges. Taylor made a deal with the prosecution, and pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute marijuana. In return, the prosecution dismissed any charges against his wife, Molly, and also dropped a number of other charges against him.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker sentenced Taylor to seven and a half years in prison with fours of supervision after his release. He also recommended Taylor receive substance abuse counseling in prison for what his defense attorney called a “profound dependence” on marijuana.
With the frequent changes in marijuana law, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney familiar with the current status of medical marijuana law and federal drug law if you have any concerns. We wouldn’t want you to wind up in prison with Mr. Taylor!