Judge Says Defendant Caught in “Tug of War” Over Marijuana Laws

Santa Ana – A “bold, precedent-setting decision” is what U.S. District Judge David O. Carter had said he would make yesterday in the sentencing of an Orange County man who had been growing in his garage the marijuana he used to treat his chronic back pain. Instead, the judge continued the sentencing hearing for the third time, giving federal prosecutors a fourth chance to produce any evidence that Michael Teague was selling the herb to others at the time of his arrest in April, 2002.
If they can’t, Judge Carter said he would depart downward from the minimum of five years in prison federal law mandates and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Stopler is seeking. What that sentence might be is unclear under sentencing guidelines, though Judge Carter said Mr. Teague is caught in a “tug of war” between zealous federal prosecutors and marijuana law reformers.
The owner of a small pool-service business, Mr. Teague, 33, had a doctor’s recommendation for the marijuana because of life-threatening reactions to such conventional pain-killing medications as aspirin and Tylenol. Orange County Sheriff officers initially arrested him, but the District Attorney declined to bring charges after learning of Mr. Teague’s condition. Two weeks later, federal authorities arrived at his home and re-arrested him, charging him with drug violations that carry a possible ten-year minimum sentence.
Mr. Teague elected to plead guilty to a lesser charge of cultivating more than 100 plants, with a recommended sentence of five years, after being advised that he would be unable to use as a defense either his painful medical condition or the drug allergies that made medical marijuana the best treatment option.
The son of a police department employee and brother of a police officer, Mr. Teague’s worst previous encounter with law enforcement was a traffic ticket. Federal prosecutors are nonetheless intent on getting a five-year prison sentence. Judge Carter looks set to say otherwise.
Who:     Michael Teague, 33, Orange County small-business owner and medical-marijuana patient.
What:    Possible Precedent-Setting Sentencing in Federal Medical Marijuana Case.
When:   Monday, August 18th at 1:30 PM.
Where: US District Court in Santa Ana, Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 411 West Fourth Street, 8th Floor, Courtroom of Judge David O. Carter.
Americans for Safe Access is a national coalition of patients, doctors and advocates. With 5,500 members nationwide, ASA is the leading organization devoted to medical marijuana.
For interviews or more information, contact William Dolphin: (510) 653-1016 or 919-1498.