Pubdate: Wed, 24 Dec 2014
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


The letters sent from prison inmates follow a script. In block 
letters, handwritten in pencil, as many words as possible are 
squeezed onto irregular scraps of paper. Sentences are vague and 
innocuous so as to not raise the hackles of the prison censor. 
They're also profoundly depressing, even when the prisoner claims to 
be in good spirits.

"On the way here, the guards had the prisoner next to me taken out 
and killed," read one letter I received from a man who is doing time 
for running a state-legal dispensary. "There are other things I can 
only tell you about in person."

I was eager to take him up on the invitation for a visit. And I will 
never forget how the visit was foiled. On the phone inquiring about 
the visitation protocol, the prison camp's warden happily said I was 
welcome to apply. He followed that by saying, "As long as I've been 
warden, no inmate has ever accepted a visit from a reporter." I could 
almost hear a satisfied Cool Hand Luke-like grin stretch across his face.

The message was clear: No ward of his was going to do any talking.

In the marijuana industry's Wolf of Wall Street year, with an 
increasing number of would-be investors and capitalists squeezing in 
beside the usual crowd of rogues, outlaws, and dreamers, it's easy to 
forget how recently marijuana was just a fringe movement with a few 
freaks leading the way.

Some of these "freaks" are in prison right now. While the storm of 
cash roars overhead, it's worth remembering those people imprisoned 
over a plant. Love them or hate them, it's your money that's keeping 
them incarcerated this Christmas.

Matthew Davies

Age: 37


Imprisoned: 2014

Estimated release: 2019

Matthew Davies was ahead of his time. The Santa Clara University MBA 
was the Bain Capital of cannabis. But instead of shuttering 
distressed properties for shareholder profit, Davies turned shady pot 
clubs into clean, well-oiled medical machines that employed some 100 
people. With his own production and distribution network feeding 
dispensaries in Sacramento and Stockton, his business model was 
nearly identical to the blueprints cannabis entrepreneurs are using 
in Colorado today. In 2011, federal agents raided his Stockton 
warehouse which housed thousands of plants and 50 pounds of pot. A 
plea to President Barack Obama for clemency went unanswered. Instead 
of going to trial and risking a 10-year minimum, he took a plea deal, 
and will serve five years in prison for business activities that 
California collected taxes on. "Our state happily took $100 million 
in tax money" from marijuana sales, he told the Sacramento Bee last 
year. "But when the time came to help us out, they were never to be found."

Dustin Costa

Age: 68


Imprisoned: 2006

Estimated release: 2018

Crime: Former U.S. Marine Dustin "DC" Costa ran a collective and 
advocacy group in California's Central Valley, a dangerous prospect 
now and in 2005, when zealous cops used Costa's PG&E bill to help 
obtain a search warrant for the activist's rural property. Initially 
charged in state court for 900 plants and 8.8 pounds of cannabis, the 
local U.S. attorney decided to take up the case in 2006 (in a court 
where state medical marijuana law is not a defense). Sentenced to a 
15-year term, Costa may be eligible for release as early as 2018. 
After doing much of his pretrial detention in Texas, he's in a 
federal prison camp in Colorado.

Aaron Sandusky

Age: 44

Rancho Cucamonga

Imprisoned: 2012

Estimated release: May 8, 2021

Sandusky was the man behind Inland Empire dispensary network G3 
Holistics. To supply the demand of 17,000 medical cannabis users at 
three locations, Sandusky had a grow of about 1,000 plants. That's 
enough to trigger a 10-year mandatory minimum. After he closed two of 
his three dispensaries under federal pressure in 2011, the feds 
raided Sandusky's remaining pot club in Upland, where they found 
$11,500 in cash. After another federal trial in which state law, 
business licenses, and tax receipts were rejected as a defense, 
Sandusky received 10 years. As an industry operator with much bigger 
competitors in other parts of California, his crime was being too big 
too early - and in the wrong part of the state.

Mollie Fry & Dale Schafer

Ages: 58 and 60

Cool, Calif.

Imprisoned: 2011

Estimated release: Fry, Sept. 7, 2015; Schafer, Sept. 8, 2015

A physician recovering from breast cancer, Dr. Mollie Fry was growing 
34 plants with her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, at their home in 
the Sacramento foothills. Local law allowed them up to 99 plants. 
Other legal medical marijuana users in the area could get some of the 
excess harvest for a $10 delivery fee. Sharing the crop wasn't what 
landed them in prison, nor was it the free edibles that undercover 
federal agents picked up at a workshop the couple gave at the local 
Grange hall. What triggered the mandatory minimum sentence were the 
100 plants the couple had cultivated over a period of five years. 
They spent 10 years and their life savings on a fruitless legal fight 
before going behind bars in 2011. A hemophiliac, Schafer has 
reportedly spent most of his term in a prison hospital.

To CONTACT A PRISONER: Addresses for federal correctional institutes 
can be found via the database

donations to Green Aid, 484 Lake Park Ave #172, Oakland, CA 94610.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom