The United States Department of Justice isn’t supposed to be wasting tax dollars prosecuting marijuana crimes that are otherwise legal under state laws. However, it seems that even now if they feel a business operator has stepped out of bounds in some way, they will swoop in and remind us all that federal law is above any law passed by individual state governments. Michigan dispensary owner Danny Trevino (of Lansing) has finally reached sentencing for the charges he faced for the operation of his Hydroworld shops in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Flint and Mount Pleasant – and the judge gave him a total of 15 years and 8 months in federal prison.
“States are changing marijuana laws across the country, certainly that’s true, but federal law has not changed,” U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney said.
Trevino was convicted of 10 felony charges, including conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and maintaining a drug-involved premises. Throughout the trial, he was not allowed to use the Michigan state marijuana laws as a defense against the federal charges – though he maintains that he was operating within state law.
While he was arrested in 2014 in Grand Rapids for delivery or manufacturing of marijuana and maintaining a drug house, the charges were dropped a month later. Later, he fought the forfeiture of funds seized by the police. He eventually won that battle, and his money was returned by the state. His businesses saw 16 raids between 2010 and 2016, but each time he was able to provide the state with both store records and tax records. Even with the state’s cloudy medical marijuana regulations at the time, it appears he attempted to remain compliant with those laws.
Considering the fact that he was cleared of charges at the state level, you would think the federal government would step back. Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel McGraw says that Trevino knew he was acting illegally under federal law and basically, that’s all that matters.
This is a case that didn’t need to be seen by a judge as there are far more important things that the court system needs to worry about. The state didn’t take the time to seek a conviction, and the Department of Justice had no need to step in and get involved. However, this is certainly a reminder that even for state-legal businesses, there remains some risk from federal interference if you don’t comply with state law in every single aspect.