An Inland Empire dispensary owner who is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence lost his bid to win a new trial.
Aaron Sandusky, who ran the shuttered G3 Holistic Inc. and its dispensaries in Moreno Valley, Upland and Colton, sought to overturn his 2013 conviction. But in March the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his arguments.
The court said Sandusky failed to make a case for vindictive or selective prosecution “because he has not adduced evidence indicating even the appearance of vindictiveness. . . . what is more, Sandusky has not alleged any improper motive attributable to the federal government.”
The decision came in the form of a memorandum opinion. Sandusky had been scheduled to make his case at a hearing in early March, but it was canceled and arguments were submitted as written briefs.
Sandusky was sentenced in January 2013. He is serving his sentence at Big Spring Federal Correctional Institute in Big Spring, Texas.
“I would have preferred the court reverse the conviction rather than affirm it,” said his attorney, Roger Jon Diamond. “But I’ve learned not to give up. It’s not the end of the line.”
Sandusky is one of many marijuana entrepreneurs caught up in the federal government’s war on weed in California. Though medical marijuana is perfectly legal under state law, the drug remains illegal under federal law – and the Obama administration has made a point of targeting the cannabis industry in the Golden State.
The tide may be turning, with full legalization already a reality in Colorado and Washington State, and more states likely to follow suit. In California, police groups have finally gotten behind legislation to regulate MMJ – legislation that could appease the feds.
But that leaves businessmen like Sandusky stuck behind bars for doing something that was legal according to the State of California. His girlfriend, Darlene Buenrostro, said he would not get out of prison until May 8, 2021.
“It’s horrible,” Buenrostro said. “You’re sitting out here feeling helpless. I’m trying to find a way to help him. He has no options, no voice. I’m trying to be his voice.”
The ruling in March came from a sub-panel of the 9th Circuit. Buenrostro said she and Sandusky would consider another appeal, this time to the full court. If that doesn’t work, they may seek a presidential pardon.
In Upland, where Sandusky ran a dispensary that city officials tried repeatedly to close, City Council Member Gino L. Fillippi complained that the city wasted half a million dollars trying to squash the pot entrepreneur.
“The city manager was telling us the feds would take care of it,” Filippi said. “In my opinion, we wasted $500,000. That’s unacceptable.”
He also said the federal government has yet to explain why it has left legal weed alone in Colorado and Washington while MMJ is still fair game in California.
“I’m sure Aaron is thinking about this, but why is [pot] acceptable in Colorado and I don’t know how many other states but in California it’s not,” Fillippi said. “The federal government has selective enforcement. It’s a perception many people have. I’m sure that’s a tough pill to swallow for Aaron.”