A onetime marijuana entrepreneur, among the flashiest in California, pleaded guilty to cannabis-related charges in federal court July 1.
Yan Ebyam, 37, who was once a major player in MMJ, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. He now faces between six and eight years in prison if the judge accepts his plea deal with prosecutors.
Ebyam, whose pseudonymous first name means “yes and no,” and whose last name is “maybe” spelled backward, could have received a sentence of 10 years to life in prison if found guilty at trial.
Feds Target Ebyam Despite Promise
The charges stemmed from Ebyam’s role in convincing two farmers in Sutter County to turn their greenhouses into pot gardens. He was also charged with conspiring to grow weed in space he rented from a wholesale florist in Sacramento.
The Obama administration announced in a 2009 memo that it wouldn’t target individual medical marijuana patients or their caregivers as long as they observe state law. Last year, a new memo announced the Justice Department wouldn’t sue to stop legal cannabis or target businesses that provide it under state law.
That hasn’t stopped the torrent of arrests, prosecutions, and asset forfeitures directed at the weed industry by overzealous drug warriors, however. All of California’s four U.S. attorneys have launched major efforts to bring down medical marijuana providers.
Ebyam Busted for Growing Weed
Federal prosecutors accused Ebyam of growing more than 5,200 plants in Sutter and Sacramento counties. The plants were destroyed during a federal raid in 2011. Prosecutors say they went after Ebyam because his plans for cannabis were too ambitious to be legal. They called him an opportunist in sheep’s clothing.
But that doesn’t apply to many of the other entrepreneurs tangled in the federal law enforcement web. In Northern California, for example, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag is still pursuing a case against a long-established medical pot dispensary whose owner has the support of Oakland city officials and neighbors.
Ebyam appeared defeated in court in July. His attorney cut him short while he was talking to reporters outside the courthouse, telling him to keep silent until after sentencing.
“It comes to an end today,” Ebyam said. “It is what it is.”
Partner Still Faces Trial
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Pickles said in court that Ebyam could receive additional breaks on his sentence if he cooperates with the feds in investigations of other California pot providers.
His alleged business partner, Los Angeles attorney Nathan Hoffman, still faces trial. Hoffman is charged with money laundering and conspiracy for allegedly forming a partnership with Ebyam to build cultivation sites.
The two farmers in Sutter County pleaded guilty in February to felony charges for leasing their greenhouses to the partnership. In that case, prosecutors said they would ask for incarceration “on the lower end” of federal sentencing guidelines. The farmers are scheduled to receive their sentences Aug. 19.