California marijuana dispensary owner gets 10 years on federal charges

Aaron Sandusky's case shows what can happen when federal law opposes state marijuana legislation

Published January 8, 2013 4:12PM (EST)


A federal court Monday sentenced a California man to 10 years in prison for doing something that's legal in his state. Aaron Sandusky was convicted in October on federal charges of distributing marijuana -- he is one of four defendants in the United States who have faced federal prosecutors over medical marijuana dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Sandusky, 42, ran three dispensaries in Southern California's Inland Empire area. Medical marijuana dispensaries have been legal according to California state law since 1996.

According to reports, Sandusky told the courtroom Monday, "I want to apologize to those with me and their families who have been victimized by the federal government who has not recognized the voters of this state."

Sandusky's case, like a handful of others in California and one in Montana, highlights some of the harshest fallout from the ongoing conflict between federal and state marijuana law. As the AP reported, "California's four federal prosecutors launched a coordinated crackdown on the state's medical marijuana industry in 2011 by threatening landlords with property forfeiture actions. Since then, hundreds of pots shops have gone out of business."

As more and more states decriminalize and legalize marijuana both for medical and personal use, it remains to be seen whether Sandusky will be one of the first or last victims of this state-federal conflict.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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California Federal Law Marijuana Marijuana Legalization Medical Marijuana War Of Drugs