Richard Flor, a pioneer in medical marijuana in Montana, died on Wednesday, six months into a five-year federal sentence for growing medical marijuana.
In 2004 Montana voters overwhelming approved a ballot measure to allow medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Richard Flor and his wife Sherry grew pot in their back yard, and opened a dispensary in Billings.
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo saying that prosecutors would not pursue people who were in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. That all changed in March of 2011, when federal agents raided 26 homes and businesses throughout Montana. On April 19, 2012, Flor, aged 68 and ailing, was sentenced to five years in federal prison. He died in federal custody in a Las Vegas on Wednesday – six months into his sentence.
Flor had been ill even at the time of sentencing. A federal psychologist testified that Flor suffered from dementia, depression and a number of other serious medical conditions. While he was being evaluated in prison, Flor fractured four ribs after falling from his bed. His daughter, Kristin Flor, pleaded with the sentencing judge for leniency, saying her father needs 24-hour care and asked the judge to let her take care of him at her home in Tacoma, Washington. It was to no avail.
Flor’s attorney said “If we put him in prison, he isn’t going to live a year. So what have we accomplished?” Flor lasted less than 6 months.
Richard Flor’s story is a cautionary one for medical marijuana growers, providers, dispensaries and caregivers. Federal law trumps state and local laws regarding marijuana, and a State dispensary license is not a defense to a federal pot indictment. Just-Us Department memos are meaningless, when election time rolls around or crime-busting feds are looking to make headlines.
Categories: medical marijuana