Authorities raided Charlie Lynch's California home.
"They say, 'Search warrant! Open the door, or we're gonna tear it down!"
Lynch told me.
"I opened the door, and about 10 to 15 agents with shields, bulletproof
vests, guns, masks. [They] threw me on the ground and ... had a gun to
the back of my head."
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized 30 pounds of
marijuana. Sheriff Pat Hedges said the facts were clear, "Charlie Lynch
was making a profit off of selling marijuana."
It wasn't hard for the authorities to locate Lynch's marijuana
operation. They were probably tipped off by the public ribbon-cutting
ceremony Lynch held the one that the mayor of his town attended,
along with city councilmen and the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The police were invited, too.
You see, Lynch sold medical marijuana, which has been declared legal by
California and 12 other states. California says if a doctor recommends
that you use the drug, it's perfectly legal.
Singer Melissa Etheridge is happy about that. When she got breast
cancer, chemotherapy took her hair and made her sick. She told me that
chemo kills more than cancer. "It's like putting acid in your body. You
have absolutely no strength."
The pills to treat the side effects have their own side effects.
She said, "Take the one drug for pain. It makes you constipated. So then
you have to take the drug that helps you not be constipated. But that
drug [gives you] diarrhea, and so you have to take another drug to
combat the side effects of that."
So her doctor recommended marijuana.
"I had a choice: those drugs and all these side effects, or ... one
remedy that takes care of all of the [side effects]."
It worked for high school student Owen Beck, too.
"I was playing soccer, and [my leg] was really hurting one day. ... I
went and got an MRI. It was a medium-sized tumor."
Doctors amputated Owen's leg and gave him chemotherapy. Chemo tortured
him the way it tortured Etheridge.
"It destroys your appetite, and whatever you can eat, you throw up."
When prescribed medicine didn't relieve the side effects, his doctors
suggested medical marijuana.
"With the marijuana, I could do what I needed to do during the day and
just not be in pain. I could be comfortable."
Owen bought his marijuana from Charlie Lynch's dispensary. Sheriff
Hedges says that Lynch's business "is not in the best interests of the
He was helping people, wasn't he? I asked Hedges.
"Well, you're making an assumption that he's helping people. He was
primarily helping himself."
The sheriff's office's staked out Charlie's dispensary and sent in
undercover agents to see if Charlie was breaking any part of
California's law. He wasn't.
So after a year of diligently documenting that marijuana was indeed
being sold by a marijuana dispensary, the sheriff handed the case over
to the federal police, the DEA. U.S. law ludicrously calls marijuana a
schedule 1 narcotic. That puts it in the same category as heroin.
Federal authorities cleverly avoided California's state courts and took
Charlie into federal court, where his lawyers were not even allowed to
tell the jury that medical marijuana is legal in California. Not
surprisingly, Charlie was convicted. Possible sentence: 100 years in
He told me his life has been destroyed. He is bankrupt; his girlfriend
left him; and friends are afraid to talk to him.
President Obama has joked about his own marijuana use, but since his
inauguration, federal police have raided five marijuana dispensaries in
states where state law permits them. Last week, however, the
administration announced it would no longer raid legal dispensaries.
That bought Charlie Lynch some time. This week the federal judge
postponed sentencing pending more information about the Justice
Department's new policy.
The feds still wanted to lock up Charlie Lynch. I don't know why. The
DEA refuses to talk to me about it.
The war on drugs is idiotic. It deters few, drives drug use underground
making it more dangerous and creates horrible crime.
Adults should be free to ingest whatever they want, knowing they are
responsible for their actions.