California Man Begins 2-Year Prison Term For Working At Legal Marijuana Dispensary

| by Khier Casino

A California man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after participating in the state’s legal medical marijuana dispensary business.

Robert Duncan’s grow house was raided by federal officers in October 2011 when the Obama administration announced a new crackdown on California’s medical marijuana operation. Duncan, 31, was set to report Mendota Federal Correctional Institution on Monday at 2 p.m. to begin his two-year prison sentence, the Huffington Post reports.

After graduating from Cal State in 2006, Duncan, who grew up in the Bay Area, worked in television production and marketing in Los Angeles before being laid off because of the recession.

Duncan’s friends reached out to him soon after and asked if he’d be interested in managing the growing operation of their dispensary business. Duncan had little experience with growing, but he agreed.

“I designed the grow rooms with the help of a local hydroponic store,” Duncan said. “Did the scheduling, decided which nutrients to feed the plants, when they were going to get harvested. I was constantly working to upgrade the efficiency of the grow room environment and thinking of new ways to make things better.”

Duncan said he found the work to be more challenging and exciting than he expected. He was working about 80 hours a week, but “it was rewarding.”

Duncan admitted that his view on marijuana users changed when he got into the business, as most patients were struggling with a disability and really needed the drug.

Duncan claims that he and his colleagues were aware of California marijuana laws and followed them exactly.

“We were entirely compliant with state law,” he said. “It was shortly after the federal government said it would not intervene if people followed state law. We wanted to abide by the rules. None of us had criminal backgrounds. We’re all regular guys. The only reason we got into this was because the federal government said they wouldn't intervene.”

A SWAT team raided their grow house, but the indictment did not come until the following year, when Duncan was charged with “manufacturing of marijuana.” However, he “didn’t find out until shortly before the actual sentencing” that he would end up in prison.

Even though Duncan did not have “any stake in the company” or “any ownership of anything,” he was sentenced to 24 months by a conservative judge.

“The 80 percent of us Californians who support medical cannabis are disappointed [in the raids] and want some backing from the [Obama] administration to end this reefer madness," State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, told the Sacramento Bee after the 2011 raid of Duncan’s former business.

In a Pew Research Center poll released last April, a majority of Americans (52 percent) for the very first time favor marijuana legalization.