Article by Dillon Kato, Missoulian
At a court hearing in Missoula on Friday, a federal agent admitted he had no idea how much marijuana a pair of Bozeman medical marijuana providers were allowed to have when agents raided their store and home last spring.
Another agent testified that the only patients using the maximum allowed were doing so illegally.
Federal prosecutors have charged Jesse Walter Campbell, a Bozeman-based provider, and Michael James Mason, who worked for the statewide dispensary Montana Buds, with conspiracy and possession of marijuana. Charlton Victor Campbell, the third man charged in the case, has accepted a plea agreement from prosecutors, but has yet to plead guilty.
The attorneys for Mason and Campbell asked for a special hearing, claiming that a prior decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals means that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t prosecute medical marijuana providers who are obeying their state medical marijuana laws.
What that decision doesn’t say, however, is which side needs to prove whether a provider was in compliance or not, and how stringent the burden of proof needs to be.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Dana Christensen started the hearing by saying he would allow for a “shifting burden of proof,” asking first for prosecutors to show how the defendants violate the state law; then, if necessary, calling on the defense attorneys to show how their clients were in compliance. He said after the hearing was over that he would make a determination on what each side needed to prove, and whether they met their burden.