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United States v. Daniels

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
RICHARD DANIELS, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS OR ENJOIN PROSECUTION

          George Z. Singal, United States District Judge.

         On October 5, 2018, the Government filed a Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 82) charging a number of individuals and corporate entities with a range of counts related to alleged marijuana distribution. Defendants Tyler Poland, Ty Properties, LLC & Ty Construction, LLC (together, the “Poland Defendants”) filed a Motion to Dismiss Prosecution Pursuant to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment (ECF No. 334) in May 2019, and, in July, Defendants Brian Bilodeau & Brian Bilodeau, LLC (together, the “Bilodeau Defendants”) moved to dismiss or enjoin prosecution under what they referred to as the “Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment” (ECF No. 404). MR, LLC (“MR”) joined the Bilodeau Defendants' Motion (ECF No. 410). On October 3 and 4, this Court held an evidentiary hearing on the Defendants' Motions and, at the close, ordered post-hearing briefing. Having reviewed that briefing (ECF Nos. 616, 619, 620, 648, 651, 655, & 659) and considered all of the evidence presented, the Court DENIES the Motions for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Since 2014, the annual federal appropriations law has included a rider that prohibits the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) from using congressionally appropriated funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. See Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, Pub. L. No. 116-6, § 537, 133 Stat. 13, 138 (2019); Pub. L. No. 113-235, § 538, 128 Stat. 2130, 2217 (2014). The current rider, which is in all relevant ways identical to any previous iterations implicated by these Motions, states:

None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, . . . Maine, . . . or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

         The rider is commonly known as the “Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment” or the “Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, ” in recognition of certain legislative sponsors. For the purposes of this Order, the Court refers to it simply as “the Amendment.” In 2016, the Ninth Circuit, the only court of appeals yet to have considered the effect of the Amendment on prosecutions for alleged marijuana crimes, concluded that “federal criminal defendants may, ” based on the rider, “seek to enjoin the expenditure” of DOJ funds on their prosecution. United States v. McIntosh, 833 F.3d 1163, 1173 (9th Cir. 2016). The Ninth Circuit held that such defendants are entitled to enjoin their prosecution if, following an evidentiary hearing, the court concludes “their conduct was completely authorized by state law” governing medical marijuana, i.e., “they strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by state law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.” Id. at 1179.

         Defendants argue that their conduct was completely authorized by the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act. See 22 M.R.S.A. § 2421 et seq. Thus, they move to enjoin prosecution pursuant to the Amendment. For its part, the Government opposes the relief sought by Defendants, but did not oppose an evidentiary hearing under the McIntosh framework.[1]

         On October 3 and 4, 2019, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the moving Defendants' strict compliance with Maine's medical marijuana laws. In advance of the hearing, the Poland Defendants filed a Motion Regarding the Parties' Burdens Under Rohrabacher-Farr, which MR and the Bilodeau Defendants joined (ECF Nos. 549, 552 & 554). On October 2, 2019, the Court denied their Motion (ECF No. 559), concluding that the moving Defendants bore the burden of establishing their strict compliance with Maine's medical marijuana laws by a preponderance of the evidence.[2] In the section that follows, the Court lays out the facts Defendants ultimately established by a preponderance of the evidence submitted at the hearing.

         II. FACTUAL FINDINGS

         By early 2018, law enforcement was investigating the possible illegal distribution of marijuana under the guise of the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program (MMMP).[3] In relevant part, their investigation focused on three different marijuana growing facilities located in Auburn, Maine: (1) 230 Merrow Road, (2) 249 Merrow Road, and (3) 586 Lewiston Junction Road.

         A. 230 Merrow Road

         The 230 Merrow property is a warehouse that was purchased by MR on November 1, 2016.[4] (Gov't Ex. A-11.) The warehouse contains multiple grow rooms for the cultivation of marijuana at different stages of maturity. (MR Exs. 4-8; Tr. (ECF Nos. 599 & 600) 444-45.)

         From sometime in 2016 until February 27, 2018, the grow rooms at 230 Merrow were regularly used by two individuals, Danny Bellmore and Brandon Knutson, both of whom were registered with the MMMP as medical marijuana caregivers growing at 230 Merrow. Knutson described 230 Merrow Road as “on its face . . . fully compliant” with the MMMP. (Tr. 472.) He and Bellmore aimed to grow only the number of plants authorized by law and to tag plants per MMMP regulations. (Tr. 472, 480.) The MMMP required that caregivers be “designated” by the patients for whom they cultivated and possess designation cards provided by those patients. So, in accordance with this requirement, Knutson and Bellmore displayed their MMMP registration paperwork and patient designation cards outside their grow rooms. However, Knutson himself never distributed the marijuana he grew to the people whose patient cards hung outside his grow room, and he never met or knew those patients. (Tr. 451.) Knutson also never submitted sales tax returns for any medical marijuana sales, and he did not have a lease or pay for rent or utilities at 230 Merrow. (Gov't Ex. A-7; Tr. 447-48.)

         Up until sometime in 2017, Timmy Bellmore and Brian Bilodeau managed operations at 230 Merrow.[5] That is, they paid Knutson and Danny Bellmore an hourly wage for tending the marijuana grows, purchased nutrients and soil necessary for the grows, and picked up marijuana from the site once it was cured and ready for use. (Tr. 448.) At some point in 2017, Timmy Bellmore and Bilodeau severed ties. Bilodeau continued to manage operations at 230 Merrow in similar fashion, but without Bellmore.

         Timmy Bellmore and Bilodeau also provided the growers at 230 Merrow with patient cards.[6] (Tr. 451.) A patient whose card hung outside Knutson's grow room on February 27, 2018, Lorraine Acheson, was paid to obtain that patient card by someone she believed to be working for Bellmore. Acheson never used the card herself. She did not know Knutson and never received marijuana from him. (Tr. 434-37.) Once, when a couple of Knutson's patient cards expired, Bilodeau sent him to a grow site known as “Cascades” to obtain new ones. (Tr. 451-53.)

         B. 586 Lewiston Junction Road

         The Cascades facility, where Knutson was sent to obtain patient cards, is located at 586 Lewiston Junction Road. Like 230 Merrow, Cascades is a warehouse containing multiple individual grow rooms. The grow operation at Cascades was established sometime after Knutson started work at 230 Merrow. In fact, he helped start the Cascades grow by moving in its first plants, staking them up, and cloning plants. (Tr. 453.)

         The Cascades facility was inspected by MMMP authorities on January 10, 2018, and found compliant. (Gov't Ex. A-37.) At that time, Bilodeau, Kevin Dean, Cecile Dean, and Marshall Dean were all registered as caregivers with indoor grows at the site. In addition to the indoor grows, the Cascades facility had an unfenced outdoor grow area for which no caregiver was registered. (Gov't Exs. A-8-A-10, A-37; Tr. 378.)

         Cascades was generally understood to belong to Kevin Dean.[7] However, Knutson regarded Bilodeau as the site's “boss.” (Tr. 479.) Knutson believed Dean and Bilodeau to be partners in the marijuana business at both 230 Merrow and Cascades; he reached this conclusion because he knew of Bilodeau and Dean attending marijuana grower conventions together, from which they had once brought back a marijuana trimming machine, and he understood them both to be involved in establishing the grow facilities at the two locations. (Tr. 457-60.) Knutson saw Dean at 230 Merrow at least once and at Cascades, with Bilodeau, a handful of times. (Tr. 470.) Knutson also transported a trimming machine between 230 Merrow and Cascades, as directed by Timmy or Bilodeau. (Tr. 474.)

         C. 249 Merrow Road

         Since December 2017, 249 Merrow Road has been owned by Ty Properties, LLC.[8] (Gov't Ex. A-13.) One warehouse on the property contains several rooms on the first floor and offices on the second. (Tr. 37-38.) Another warehouse contains a large garage bay area and individual grow rooms for mature and immature marijuana plants. For at least some time during the relevant period, the property also housed an unfenced outdoor grow. (Gov't Ex. E-30; Tr. 418-19.) It is not clear who grew at 249 Merrow before roughly 2018 or when marijuana growing at this location commenced. But as of February 27, 2018, six individual caregivers were registered to operate indoor grow rooms at the site and had lease agreements with Tyler Poland to rent out those spaces. (Poland Exs. 1-6.) According to Catherine Lewis, an expert retained by the Poland Defendants, the paperwork on site at 249 Merrow on February 27, 2018 was in “full compliance” with the MMMP. (Tr. 59-60.) Lewis also concluded that the caregivers registered there as of that date were in compliance with MMMP licensing requirements. (Tr. 67.)

         D. ...


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