President Obama Must Pardon this Man

From the New York Times:

Consider the case of Chris Williams, the subject of this Op-Doc video, who opened a marijuana grow house in Montana after the state legalized medical cannabis. Mr. Williams was eventually arrested by federal agents despite Montana’s medical marijuana law, and he may spend the rest of his life behind bars. While Jerry Sandusky got a 30-year minimum sentence for raping young boys, Mr. Williams is looking at a mandatory minimum of more than 80 years for marijuana charges and for possessing firearms during a drug-trafficking offense.

The story is, by now, a familiar one. Chris Williams was operating an enormous grow operation based on the fact that Montana passed a medical marijuana law and fact that the Obama Justice Department promised they would not go after people who growing marijuana in the boundaries of state law. He was so scrupulous about following the rules that he had local law enforcement and politicians tour his operation on multiple occasions. And then the Obama DEA busted in. During his trial, he was prevented from using the fact that he was following state law as a defense.

This is a sick perversion of justice. If there really were some urgent reason to shut these operations down (setting aside the rather strong possibility that the DEA simply wanted to steal all Mr. Williams’ possessions) then how much easier and more just would it have been to post a notice on the business’s door? Or send an email? Businesses that give tours to the police are not the ones that will disobey a direct order from the government.

Even if that were not possible, President Obama still has the power of the pardon. If Mr. Williams was growing in violation of clear direction from the Justice Department, that would be one thing. But that’s not the case. He is in prison right now because of a campaign promise from the president, one which was codified in writing, and later reversed with no warning.

Barack Obama is, apparently, a man who can be moved to tears by the tireless efforts of his campaign staff. Has he no place in his heart for a man who only started his own business providing medicine, in what he thought was safe legal territory based on the promises of Obama himself? Has he no sympathy for a son who will grow up without a father? Does a prison sentence greater than that for murder or child rape sound fair to him?

Chris Williams should never have been arrested or tried. But it’s not too late for some semblance of justice. Mr. President, free this man.

@ryanlcooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.