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United States v. Jerry Laberdee and Dennis Whited (2011-present, Spokane, WA)

posted Feb 3, 2013, 12:10 PM by The Editor   [ updated Jun 6, 2013, 3:31 AM ]
A federal grand jury on July 20, 2011 indicted owners of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane, WA.  The criminal charges, which include manufacture and distribution of marijuana and maintaining a drug-involved location, carry penalties of up to 40 years in prison.  All five defendants also face forfeiture of any property or proceeds derived from illegal operations.

In early April 2011, federal authorities announced plans to enforce federal law against approximately forty Washington medical marijuana providers.  Medical marijuana is legal in the state of Washington under voter initiative Measure 692 (1998) and Senate Bill 6032 (2007).  Eastern Washington U.S. District Attorney Michael Ormsby also sent a letter to the governor on April 14, 2011 threatening state officials with prosecution if a distribution licensing system, such as that proposed by SB 5073, is adopted.

On April 28, 2011, the DEA raided Spokane-area THC Pharmacy, Evergreen Medical, Club Compassion, Human Connection, and Medical Herb Providers. The raids took place during a raid preparedness training session at Spokane Public Library for medical marijuana activists.  The class was excused early so that attendees could protest at the active medical marijuana dispensary raid sites.  Business records seized in the raids are expected to be used by the federal government to quantify the amount of marijuana sold.  By maintaining proper business records, the defendants collected evidence to be used against them in federal court.  Federal penalties increase due to the quantity marijuana sold or number of plants cultivated.

Jerry Laberdee and Dennis Whited were indicted for operating Medical Herb Providers on North Freya in Spokane, WA.  Medical Herb Providers was raided on both April 28, 2011 and May 18, 2011, only to re-open its doors the following morning.  Whited began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a crash in 2009.  Jerry Laberdee, age 56 at the time of his arrest, suffers from a host a chronic pain issues for which he medicates with cannabis.  Laberdee was allowed to remain out of jail prior to his court hearings, but when he refused to submit to a court-ordered drug test in August 2011, he was promptly jailed.  Laberdee launched a hunger strike which brought media attention to his plight.  On behalf of her father, Jessica Vogel-Laberdee asked Willie Nelson to speak out about the injustice of Jerry Laberdee's incarceration.  She described an unconventional father who "had the audacity to stand up for his belief that all people deserve to be happy, even in the face of illness."

Jerry Laberdee was released on bond by U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno on September 13, 2011, subject to frequent status conferences, drug tests, and refraining from excessive use of alcohol.  On February 21, 2013,  U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Laberdee (who was free on supervised release) to six months in federal prison.  Co-defendant Whited (in custody at the time of the hearing) received five months in federal prison, as part of a deal in which other felony counts against the two men were dismissed. 

At the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Doug Phelps noted there were no "allegations that they sold to anybody but medical marijuana patients" and called the federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients "crazy."  Judge Van Sickle acknowledged Washington state voter initiative I-502 during the sentencing, concluding that although cannabis is now legal in Washington, it is not legal per federal law, which trumps the recently enacted state law.

Last updated February 25, 2013 by Lex Libreman for WEED WARS: United States v. Marijuana.

Sources:


Bannach, Chelsea. "Marijuana Outlets Raided." Spokesman.com. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), 29 Apr. 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2013. <http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/apr/29/marijuana-outlets-raided/>.

Cartier, Curtis. "Jerry Laberdee, Jailed Marijuana Patient, Goes on Hunger Strike in Protest of Washington Pot Crackdown." Seattle Weekly Blogs. Seattle Weekly, 29 Aug. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2013. <http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/08/jerry_laberdee_jailed_marijuan.php>.

Clouse, Thomas. "Pot Shop Owners sentenced." Spokesman.com. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/feb/22/pot-shop-owners-sentenced/>.

Cuniff, Meghann M. "Grand Jury Indicts Spokane Medical Marijuana Dispensers." Spokesman.com. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), 20 Apr. 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2013. <http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/jul/20/grand-jury-indicts-spokane-medical-marijuana-dispe/>.

Cuniff, Meghann M. "Marijuana Suspect Calls on Willie Nelson." Spokesman.com. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), 26 July 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/sirens/2011/jul/26/medical-pot-suspect-calls-willie-nelson/>.

Yardley, William. "New Federal Crackdown Confounds States That Allow Medical Marijuana." NYTimes.com. The New York Times, 7 May 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/us/08marijuana.html?pagewanted=all>.
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