Prosecutor wanted prison for Mich. pot farmer

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A light sentence for a farmer caught growing more than 8,000 marijuana plants doesn't mean it's "open season" for pot growers, the chief federal prosecutor in eastern Michigan warned last Friday.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said she's disappointed that a judge last week chose to sentence Edwin Schmieding to two years of supervised release, or probation, but respects U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's authority to set the punishment.

McQuade said her office wanted a minimum prison sentence of seven years. Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Barrington Wilkins didn't push for it in open court after Friedman met privately with attorneys beforehand and signaled he was going to be lenient with Schmieding.

"I don't want anyone who grows 8,000 plants to think they're going to get a similar sentence of probation," McQuade told The Associated Press. "I don't want anyone to think it's open season for growing marijuana in Michigan. ... We will continue to enforce cases like this."

Schmieding, 61, is recovering from cancer and had many letters of support from friends and family. The judge seemed moved, saying Schmieding had "lived a good life."

Schmieding's wife, Linda, told police in 2011 that they were growing marijuana to sell to people who were permitted to use it for medicinal purposes. But there's nothing in state or federal law that allows a large-scale medical marijuana operation.

In Michigan, medical marijuana consumers can possess up to 2.5 ounces of ready-to-use pot and keep up to 12 plants in a locked place. A registered caregiver can grow marijuana for up to five people. Commercial sales through shops are prohibited.

Police who made the bust at Schmieding's farm two years ago said they were disappointed with the sentence. Lenawee County Prosecutor R. Burke Castleberry Jr. said he's researching whether Schmieding could be hit with additional charges in state court.

Published: Tue, Jul 2, 2013