Cannabis is now legal for medical patients and adult-use residents across Michigan, but at the federal level, prohibition is still the rule of law. And for one longtime Wolverine State medical marijuana provider, a recent court case is a stern reminder that even state-legal weed is still a serious crime in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

According to Michigan Live, 47-year-old Danny Trevino was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in federal prison on charges of maintaining a drug-involved premise, along with manufacturing, distributing, and possessing (with intent to distribute) an excess of 100 plants of marijuana. Recreational weed sales went live across Michigan just last month, but that didn’t stop a federal judge in Grand Rapids from handing down a decade and a half of jail time to Trevino and his state-legal business.

“States are changing marijuana laws across the country, certainly that’s true, but federal law has not changed,” US District Judge Paul Maloney said during Trevino’s sentencing trial. In other words, the ganjapreneur could not use the state’s medical marijuana rules to protect himself from federal charges. His lawyer described the conviction as a “fallacy.” 

Trevino formerly ran five medical dispensaries across the state starting in 2010, and saw his businesses raided a total of 16 times in the six years that followed. But while state officials repeatedly failed in their attempts to take down Trevino’s Hydroworld dispensaries, Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law served as protection every time. In a 2014 case, Trevino had all charges dropped after he produced tax records and sales numbers for his legal weed businesses. But no matter how frequently he went up against the state and won, the federal court system proved to be too big a Goliath for Trevino to tackle.

“How could I not have been in compliance if I was acquitted and found not guilty?” Trevino said to MLive during the trial. “We were winning and they didn’t charge us, so we kept going.”

As more local and state governments enact laws to protect cannabis users or legalize the plant entirely, Trevino’s case is yet another somber reminder that true marijuana law reform will not be achieved until federal lawmakers change their stance and end the failed War on Drugs. But in the meantime, upstanding citizens like Trevino will continue to rot behind bars at the whim of federal cops and their prosecutorial counterparts.

“I fully recognize that the landscape has changed in many states in this country,” Judge Maloney said. “The fact is, marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance.”

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