United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO PROHIBIT THE APPLICATION OF SCHEDULE I OF THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT TO THE SENTENCING OF THE DEFENDANTS
JOHN A. WOODCOCK, Jr., District Judge.
The Defendants in this marijuana manufacturing and distribution case seek to re-litigate an argument defendants have already won. Claiming that the congressional determination that marijuana is a schedule I drug is irrational and arbitrary when applied to their sentencings, the Defendants urge the Court to allow them to present evidence that the schedule I classification in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) should be struck down as unconstitutional. Because in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), the United States Supreme Court ruled that the United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) are advisory and because in Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85 (2007), the Supreme Court ruled that a sentencing judge may impose a sentence based on a policy disagreement with the Guidelines, the Defendants are free to present evidence and argue at sentencing that the statutory classification of marijuana as expressed in the Guidelines is unwise and punitive and that their marijuana-based crimes merit leniency. As the Defendants already have the right to ask for leniency due to what they contend is a misclassification of marijuana, the Court does not reach whether the United States and Maine Constitutions would accord the Defendants a right they already have.
On September 14, 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Kendall Chase, Malcolm French, Haynes Timberland, Inc. and Rodney Russell for a set of federal crimes. Indictment (ECF No. 2). On November 13, 2013, a grand jury issued a superseding indictment against Kendall Chase for conspiracy to manufacture 1, 000 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 1, 000 or more marijuana plants, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 187). The grand jury also indicted Mr. Russell for conspiracy to manufacture 1, 000 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 1, 000 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place, harboring illegal aliens, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. Id. In addition, the grand jury indicted Malcolm French for conspiracy to manufacture 1, 000 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 1, 000 or more marijuana plants, managing and controlling a drug-involved place, harboring illegal aliens, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. Id. Finally, the grand jury also indicted Haynes Timberland, Inc. for managing and controlling a drug-involved place. Id.
The case went to trial from January 8, 2014 through January 24, 2014. On January 24, 2014, the jury returned verdicts finding Malcolm French, Rodney Russell, and Kendall Chase guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, finding Malcolm French and Rodney Russell guilty of manufacturing marijuana, finding Malcolm French, Rodney Russell, and Haynes Timberland, Inc. guilty of managing or controlling a drug-involved premises, finding Malcolm French and Rodney Russell guilty of harboring illegal aliens, and finding Malcolm French, Rodney Russell, and Kendall Chase guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Jury Verdict Form (ECF No. 311). The jury expressly found that the number of marijuana plants involved in the conspiracy count and the manufacturing count for Mr. French and Mr. Russell was 1, 000 or more. Id. It made no such finding as to Mr. Chase.
On March 12, 2015, Mr. Russell, Mr. French, and Mr. Chase filed a single motion to prohibit the application of schedule I of the CSA to their upcoming sentencing. Defs.' Mot. to Prohibit the Appl. of Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act to the Sentencing of the Defs. (ECF No. 483) ( Defs.' Mot. ). Haynes Timberland, Inc. joined the Defendants' motion on March 16, 2015. Def. Haynes Timberland, Inc.'s Joinder in Def. Chase's Mot. to Prohibit Appl. of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to the Sentencing of the Defs. (ECF No. 485). Also on March 16, 2015, the Government filed its response in opposition. Gov't's Objection to the Defs.' Mot. to Prohibit Appl. of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to the Sentencing of the Defs. (ECF No. 484) ( Gov't's Opp'n ). Mr. French replied on March 24, 2015. Def. Malcolm French's Reply to Gov't's Objection to Defs.' Mot. to Prohibit the Appl. of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to the Sentencing of the Defs. (ECF No. 491) ( French Reply ). Likewise, Mr. Chase replied on April 13, 2015. Def. Chase's Reply to the Gov't's Resp. Regarding the Schedule I Challenge (ECF No. 495) ( Chase Reply ). Finally, on April 20, 2015, the Government submitted a letter to the Court in further support of its opposition, including a copy of a recent order from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. Letter from the Gov't to the United States Dist. Ct. (ECF No. 497).
II. THE PARTIES' POSITIONS
A. Defendants' Motion
Defendants argue that while marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug under the CSA, schedule I should not apply to them during their upcoming sentencing because marijuana is "a plant that has been accepted as having medical use in 23 states and the District of Columbia and completely legalized in 3 states, " and if applied to them, would violate their constitutional rights. Defs.' Mot. at 1. Specifically, they contend that "the continued inclusion of marijuana in Schedule I... and the criminal consequences of this inclusion violate the Equal Protection Clause." Id. at 3-16 (punctuation altered). Defendants request not only that the Court apply strict scrutiny in evaluating the law (and find that the law fails this heightened standard), but also that it "dismiss the indictment in this case." Id. at 5-6. In the alternative, they argue that the law does not even satisfy the lowest level of scrutiny under rational basis review. Id. at 6-15.
Regardless of the level of scrutiny applied by the Court, Defendants also request an evidentiary hearing based on the following:
An evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine the question of whether the CSA survives this Court's equal protection scrutiny in this case because there is a factually material difference between the Government's position under the CSA that marijuana ought to be classified under Schedule I and the data provided with this Motion about the medical benefits of marijuana, which increases daily as Congress and the DOJ permits states to enact medical marijuana laws without repercussions. Defendants request that this evidentiary hearing be held as part of the sentencing hearing in this matter.
Id. at 15.
Defendants also contend that "equal sovereignty of states is being violated." Id. at 16 (punctuation altered) (citing Shelby Cnty., Ala. v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013)). Said another way, Defendants claim that "[t]he disparate prosecution of crimes based on violations of the CSA's scheduling of marijuana as a Schedule I drug violates" this equal sovereignty principle. Id. at 17 (citing memoranda issued by the Deputy Attorney General advising prosecutorial discretion relating to marijuana). Finally, they assert that the "DEA's ...