State cannabis rules matter-8-2-21

State cannabis rules matter, Sixth Circuit decides

Need a reminder of why its important for cannabis businesses to follow state rules?

How about a 15-year prison sentence?

Judges dismiss Rohrabacher-Farr defense

A three judge panel affirmed Friday that Daniel Trevino committed a crime by selling cannabis. The ruling came in an opinion issued by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trevino, the former owner of Hydro World, LLC, pointed to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment for protection. The amendment was a rider in section 538 of the 2015 appropriations bill. It denies funds to the Department of Justice for targeting cannabis businesses in approved states. Rohrabacher-Farr gave the budding cannabis industry the glass house it needed to bloom. It only offered that cover to people who followed the rules, though.

Circuit Judge Joan L. Larsen authored the unanimous decision (PDF below). She didn’t get into merits of the amendment, but she did made the Court’s feelings in this case clear.

“The parties dispute the rider’s effect,” Larsen wrote. “But even if we construe Section 538 as broadly as Trevino asks us to, he is not entitled to the relief he seeks.”

From fertilizer and flora to cannabis and conspiracy

The opinion details how Hydro World, a company founded by Trevino, moved into selling medical cannabis. Until 2008, the decision says, it only sold fertilizer and growing equipment. When Michigan legalized medical cannabis, though, Trevino saw an opportunity.

Plenty of entrepreneurs saw the same chance. The ones who succeeded followed state regulations.

Trevino acted as a caregiver, according to the ruling. However, he only registered as a patient. The Court stated why Rohrabacher-Farr wouldn’t apply.

“As his own counsel admitted,” wrote Larsen. “Trevino ‘could never have been licensed’ as a caregiver because he had a prior felony conviction involving cocaine.”

Expungement of criminal cannabis records is a frequent feature of new legalization proposals. However, the social equity provisions only apply to cannabis-related crimes. No state approves licensees to sell cannabis if they have other drug convictions.

Trevino’s case serves as a sobering reminder of why following the rules is so important. He tried to follow the American dream of small business success. What he ended up with, though, is a 15-year prison sentence and a failed appeal.

United States v. Daniel Trevino

The case is U.S. v. Trevino. Judges Deborah L. Cook and Richard Allen Griffin joined Larsen in voting to affirm Trevino’s conviction and sentence.


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