The manager of a medical marijuana clinic in Southern Oregon has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for growing and selling pot.
Josephine County Circuit Judge Pat Wolke told Brenda Thomas on Monday that he was imposing the sentence to show people that using the Oregon medical marijuana law to cover up illegal drug dealing will be punished.
"The majority of people in the Medical Marijuana Program are obeying the law," Wolke said. "There is a substantial minority who are not. They are overgrowing, and they are selling. ... I think the Medical Marijuana Program is hurt by people who thumb their nose at the law."
Thomas was led away in handcuffs and in tears to begin serving her sentence immediately. She called out to supporters to arrange for someone to take her roommate to the doctor.
Thomas was the manager of the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation office in Grants Pass, part of a chain of medical marijuana clinics owned by marijuana activist Paul Stanford.
After turning down a plea bargain with an offer of probation, she went to trial, trying to throw the blame on grower Thomas Bletco, who had turned state's evidence. She was convicted in July of possessing, manufacturing and selling marijuana.
Police raided Thomas' home in the rural community of Wilderville in October 2009 after a Las Vegas couple pulled over in a traffic stop on Interstate 5 near Ashland told investigators that they bought the pound of marijuana found in their car from Thomas.
According to testimony from Bletko, he and Thomas had a deal to grow marijuana for money, not just for patients, and were careful to have enough medical marijuana cards to cover the 72 plants in the ground.
But when police raided the property, they found drying plants and processed marijuana amounting to 200 pounds, far more than the 19.5 pounds of processed pot authorized by holding medical cards for 13 patients.
Under Oregon's medical marijuana law, patients can have someone else grow pot for them, but growers cannot charge patients for the marijuana they produce. They can only collect for expenses, such as electricity and fertilizer.