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United States v. Alice Weigand and Jeffre Sanderson (2006-2010, Plumas County)

posted Jan 28, 2013, 6:13 AM by The Editor   [ updated Jan 29, 2013, 9:39 PM ]
Alice Wiegand and her husband Jeffre Sanderson were living a quiet, untroubled life in northern California’s rural Plumas County in the summer of 2006. The couple had a nice home, a baby son named Jamie, and an impressive organic vegetable garden. But they had something else that caught the attention of law enforcement and triggered a raid that shattered their lives: a plot of approximately sixty-four tall marijuana plants that could be seen from the sky. When sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at the home, they discovered another grow area: a basement room where over a hundred marijuana clones were in production. However, they also found something that made the district attorney refuse to prosecute the case: evidence showing the grow was a collective garden that supplied ten patients whose doctors had approved their use of marijuana under California’s Compassionate Use Act.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had no such reluctance. Since federal law does not recognize state medical marijuana protections, the case was promptly taken over by federal prosecutors. In the months that followed, Jeffre and Alice struggled to stabilize their family. After bailing out of jail, they got Jamie back from Child Protective Services, and they also welcomed the birth of a new son named Jahson.

The family would not remain whole for long. They lost both children to CPS in October 2007, when Jeffre was arrested for cultivating a new crop of marijuana. He defended himself in federal court by claiming that he used marijuana religiously as a Rasta, but the judge didn’t buy the argument and ruled against Jeffre in November 2007. That same month, Jeffre and Alice accepted plea deals to resolve the charges against them. Jeffre pled guilty to cultivating under 80kg of marijuana, a charge that does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Alice made a guilty plea on conspiracy to cultivate, and she agreed to forfeit the family’s home and farm as part of the deal.

In April 2008, a federal judge sentenced Jeffre to eighteen months in prison and gave Alice the lesser term of six months. However, the judge allowed the couple to serve staggered sentences, so that Alice could remain out of prison long enough to regain custody of the two children. Jeffre’s eighteen months ended up being like a tour of California’s penal institutions: a combination of pre-sentencing jail time in Sacramento, stints at prisons in San Bernardino and Herlong, and several months at a halfway house in San Francisco.

After Jeffre’s release, it was Alice’s turn. On July 13th, 2009, Alice said goodbye to her children and drove with Jeffre to her temporary new home: a prison camp for women in Dublin, California.

“Her sons are being told the truth,” said Pam Ayoob, Alice’s mother-in-law. “Mommy has to go to jail for growing plants in the yard.”
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