Medical pot shop owner facing 100 years

July 18, 2008


Charles C. Lynch sits in his South County home this weekend awaiting the start of a trial that poses for him the threat of a century in federal prison for doing what he thought was the right thing.

The parents of a San Luis Obispo County youth suffering from bone cancer agree with Lynch, as does a legion of supporters.

Not agreeing? San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges, and the federal government.

Lynch, former owner of a licensed Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary, was at his business March 27, 2007, when he was visited by a joint team of well-armed and flak-jacketed San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies and federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents. They collected his inventory but made no arrest. Lynch reopened the business “with the blessing of the landlord and city officials,” he would later say.

The landlord would later report pressure from DEA authorities, and Lynch was forced to close in May 2007. He was arrested two months later, a first for Lynch. The Arroyo Grande man’s trial for marijuana sales starts Tuesday in U.S. District Court at 8 p.m. in Courtroom 10.

The business Lynch was operating is legal under California law. Federal law, however, views cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug and U.S. drug agents have demonstrated a tendency to enforce pot laws vigorously. Rulings on pre-trial motions have determined that jurors hearing Lynch’s case will not be told that he was running a compassionate marijuana business, properly and under California law. Instead, prosecutors will charge that Lynch is a drug king-pin who faces enhanced charges of selling the drug to a minor.

During a brief telephone conversation with Lynch Friday, a reporter could hear young children laughing and chattering in the background. Lynch referred all questions to his attorney, federal public defender Reven Cohen.

Lynch will begin his trial knowing that somewhere between the smiles, handshakes, and backslaps from city officials and Morro Bay business owners welcoming his business in 2006 came “the tip” – information and an invitation provided to federal drug enforcement authorities by Sheriff Hedges.

Hedges has said repeatedly that he is required to follow federal law because it preempts state regulation. The sheriff recently attempted to keep a few grams of medical marijuana confiscated from a county man who possessed a prescription from a physician. Though Hedges eventually gave the pot back to its owner after being threatened by a local judge, he remained adamant about his position. Hedges wrote in March to that he has “heard the argument that I am not required to enforce federal law. I would simply ask if I am required to comply with federal law. My opinion is that I am. I would hope that you would agree.”

Hedges added, “As sheriff, I retain all options that any other individual has as far as exercising my right to appeal.” He wondered “what law authorizes me to engage in the distribution of a controlled substance? It is my opinion that the legal system should be given an opportunity to answer the issues as they deal with distribution.”

Lynch faces enhanced sales charges because he sold medical pot to Owen Beck, a young athlete whose leg was amputated after physicians found cancer. With his parents’ permission, and after trying everything that contemporary medicine could provide, Beck turned to the medical marijuana dispensary for help. At that time, he was 17 and accompanied by his father.

Beck and his parents had reason to feel confidence in Lynch’s shop; Lynch was a member in good standing of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, and had the endorsement and support of a wide variety of local officials and fellow business owners.

Beck said he found comfort with the pot for the first time since his disease had been diagnosed and his leg taken.

The story of Beck and Lynch has been told in a short documentary on, narrated by television star and comedian Drew Carey.


By: Anonymous on 7/22/08

Unfortunately, we cannot and should not pick and choose which laws will be enforced and who should or shouldn't abide by them. The laws were written for a reason. Maybe your arguments and needs differ from the current laws but breaking them is still not right. If you have a problem with a particular law, then lobby your congressperson or law maker. Don't go off on some random tangent and take the law into your own hands. You do no service to yourself or others and the end result is more acrimony and discord.

By: Anonymous on 7/22/08

hey Pal, It's against the law.

Wake up and smell the coffee. We can't just break the laws we don't believe in.

As a true patriot I know that.

Wise up.

By: Anonymous on 7/22/08

Unfortunately Marinol is a poor substitute for the real thing.

By: Anonymous on 7/22/08

"Get a company to produce Delta 9 THC in a therapeutic dose"

They already did, it's called Marinol. Synthetic THC in a pill. But it's very expensive. Much cheaper and easier to buy a sack of weed.

By: Anonymous on 7/22/08

If Hedges wants to enforce federal law so much, he should start rounding up illegals. A student of the constitution would know that this is a "states rights" issue. The federal government has no jurisdiction over alcohol and drugs that do not cross state lines.

By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

Problem is that there is a huge conflict between State and Federal Law. This country was based upon the conception that people should be allowed to pursue liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Those were a great concepts, but since then politicians have spent the last 200 years trying to reign in that goal. Enjoy your liberty unless I disagree? That's where the problems arise.

Should someone use marijuana and then drive a train into a school bus? No……, and we don't need special laws to address that level of idiocy, as those laws already exist.

Should a cancer victim, whatever age, be able to use marijuana in order to address phantom pain, or the horrors of chemotherapy? Absolutely. Any person who opposes the use of medical marijuana has never seen a loved-one suffer the horror of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. I've been there. If you're on the Sheriff's side…you haven't. (and while I don't agree with you, but I secretly hope you someday have a very personal opportunity to reconsider your position…)

Here's the bottom line. There's plenty of things that we can subject to micro-management in order to address the problems in our society. The real problem is that the political forces that introduced and passed our existing federal legislation generally had political or economic considerations which drove their ambitions. Wake up…, they weren't worried about children or our society, they were worried about profit.

Marijuana (versus alcohol or tobacco) wasn't targeted because it was inherently horrible… was targeted because it posed an economic risk to another industry (…probably cotton……do some research here if you're really serious about the issue) and it was an EASY target because it was (at the time) mainly enjoy by blacks…..

Now for a present day lesson in economics. Our Sheriff and Police Departments enjoy HUGE budget benefits, in the form of Federal grants and ear-marked state funds (read "D.A.R.E"), based upon their "no-medical marijuana" stances. That's what it's all about. Let's all put D.A.R.E. stickers on our cars and hope that Owen's leg doesn't hurt…….

It's all so crazy, and yet it's the law.

We're really smarter than this. Aren't we…?


By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

Sending people to prison because of marijuana has divided and weakened our nation.

I think excess use of marijuana is not healthy, but that is a matter of individual choice. If the money and energy spent prosecuting marijuana users was spent of education and treatment regarding physical and mental health, our country would be far better off.

The current laws against marijuana are an expensive, wasteful, patriotic and social disaster that has severely harmed the unity and strength of the United States.

Since the immoral "war" on marijuana began, use of marijuana has become more ingrained in our culture, not less. The "war" on marijuana makes no sense.

By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

As I remember it we fought a war between 1861 and 1865 to determine whether states rights trump federal law. Also as a law enforcement officer you should have sworn the same oath as Sheriff Hedges to uphold the Constitution of the United States including the Supremacey Clause of that document. Also some obligations are moral not written.


By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

Sheriff Hedges is put in an awkward position in this situation.

My understanding is that Sheriff Hedges has no legal obligation to assist federal agents in arresting or prosecuting marijuana dispensary operators such as Lynch.

If anyone believes otherwise, I would appreciate it if you reference any such law.

Thoughout California sheriffs and district attorney are choosing to uphold the wishes of California voters and are refusing to assist federal agents in their pursuit of marijuana growers and providers.

I would think that state's rights supporters would be especially outraged by Mr. Hedges actions.

By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

Not to confuse people wuth the facts but in reading the law only physicans and primary care givers are exempt from laws regardng the posession or providing marijuania to an ill person. A primary care giver is defined as a individual designated by the person exempted under this section who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health,

or safety of that person.

That does not sound like someone in the retail dope business. No provisions in law provide for so called marijuana clinics.

I feel sorry for the cronically ill who believe they could be helped, but the fault lies with the people that wrote the proposition not the Sheriff. If the goal was truely to provide a drug to people who need it, it would be found in state run stores or drug stores.

The real goal of this proposition was to begin the process of legalization of drugs. Don't be fooled. Look at the people who originally sposered the proposition.

By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

The entire concept of "gateway" drugs is fraught with problems and misinterpretations. Of course there is the old adage, well "milk is the most potent gateway drug of all. Look at all the crack users who started off with that!"

If marijuana was LEGAL, then it would not be associated with illegal drugs and the less likely it would be a assocciated with or be a "gateway" to illegal drugs.

Take marijuana out of the Illegal category, stop making criminals out of marijuana users, STOP MAKING MARIJUANA A GATEWAY TO JAIL. Jail itself is a gateway to lots of unsavory activity.

Sending marijuana users to jail is heinous, disgusting and one of the things that has weakened and divided our nation.

By: Anonymous on 7/21/08

"Drug companies don't promote pot because"

Well…because pot is illegal!

Pot has been proven, and proven for decades, that it is a gateway drug.

I care about our youth and our nation.

It's against the law, and this clown broke the law and you rastafarians get your panties in a wad because our sheriff upholds the law.

Re-think your priorities instead of our to get high legally.

These 1960 hippies need to grow up.


By: Anonymous on 7/20/08

Hey Paladin,

Drug companies don't promote pot because they can't patent it. That's like asking Exxon to promote wind power.

By: Anonymous on 7/20/08

I firmly believe that pot should be legal. I also believe it at least should be available for medical reasons.

That said, every dispensary I have seen (4) had "wavey gravey" and Bob Marley working there. Lynch was the first I have seen that approached it in a professional manner. I think he messed up and hired the wrong people. It became well known that pot could be had by just about anyone through one of the workers. If medical marijane is ever going to shrug off the image of hippies getting high because they suffer from post 60's trauma and twinkie depression, it will have to grow up.

Many legit patients are denied so johnny pot head can spark up. Too bad.

By: Anonymous on 7/20/08

Stay on topic!

By: Anonymous on 7/20/08

"It seems inappropriate, against nature and God, that a person can" can have a live viable baby vacuumed out of their womb.

Get your priorities straight!

By: Anonymous on 7/20/08

It seems inappropriate, against nature and God, that a person can be sent to jail for growing a particular plant.

I believe marijuana is heavily abused and over-promoted in our society, but sending people to prison over it is certainly a more horrendous abuse to individuals and our society as a whole.

Pat Hedges priorities are screwed up. It's time for a new sheriff and this is an opening for a fresh, progressive candidate, not stuck in the past or with skeletons in the closet.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

To anonymouse says:

Ya know? I think you have a point.

I don't advocate to brake any laws. My point is that we are fighting a losing cause.

By keeping some drugs illigal, we are crating profits to the wrong people while spending resources on enforcement. Also keeping drugs illigal, we must spend good money against gangsters, criminal organizations and terroris that finance their activities with drug money. We just have our heads in the sand, so that way it desn't exist. I tried Mariuna 3 times in my life and I inhaled. I drink often and on occassion I take prescription drugs. So, I am no way a holier than thou and no way a druggie.

Legalizing drugs makes lot of sense and its proven so far that the laws are not working. We can throw more kids and people in the slam, it will still not resolve the problem. But that could be a new discussion.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

The story is touching but only goes to prove that doctors will do what is asked to avoid lawsuits.

This guy broke the law…and it wasn't selling marijuana to an 84 year old terminal patient.

Let's keep it real, as they will in the courtroom.

Sorry for your loss.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Forgive me for reposting this, but I think it sums up the situation beautifully. I didn't want it to get buried under all this other BS and hope more people read it. Thank you Thoughtful. You tell it like it is.


By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Ya know? I think you have a point.

We should only obey those laws that we think are legit. Super idea. Forget the pot, I know people that like to drive 90 miles an hour after 9 drinks. We shoud all be allowed to do as we please.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

What is it about this forum that attracts comments from that insane, obsessional guy who fixates on totally off the wall things and tries to shift the discussion in those lunatic directions? One day he is ranting about "communists", then "liberals", then "environmentalists" then Dave Congalton and now, to top it off in style, it all comes down to "Charles Manson."

Ironically, I think I'm detecting some sort of logical connection this time. Yep, marijuana creates insane sociopaths. So what is your excuse?

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Who in hell is Charles Manson and what does he have to do with this?


By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Prisons in the United States is fillied with small time druggies, sellers and users.

More people die each year of Alcohol and Priscription drugs than illigal narcotics.

The amount of resources goes into fight the "DRUG WAR" runs into hundreds of billions vs. rehab etc.

If the purpose of such a WAR is to protect life, the government would redirect its effort.

Money to fight here and abroad is nothing than Government control and business for laweyers, law enforcement, incarciration and the justice system.

If the sheriff wanted to do right, he would leave these issues alone and go out fight real crime.

Tax dollars poured into a never ending battle will brankrupt this country both financially and morally.

We already are bankrupt in both field.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Don’t you-all ever wonder why Medical medicinal Sh-it didn't help Manson and his followers to be mellow people?

Maybe it was the Cause and Effect of their outrage???

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

If a liquor store slips up and sells booze to someone underage, the liquor store owner is never sent to prison.

If a drug store sells tobacco to someone underage, the store owner won't be sent to prison.

California law says Lynch has the right to sell marijuana. I doubt he would intentionally sell it to a minor without a prescription.

Sheriffs and DAs in California counties have chosen to support California's pot laws. Hedges chooses to ignore California's law and aids the Feds in taking away the rights of Californians.

He has a clear choice here and he chooses to screw the locals and show disregard for people who truly use marijuana for legitimate medical reasons. Who is he working for? SLO county or George Bush?

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

If anyone feels like they need a cigarette or a drink, they go to the store and buy them – no questions asked. Yet if someone feels they need to smoke marijuana, they're considered criminals if they succeed in doing so. I have no doubt that someday we'll look back on these times and consider the law enforcement and the federal government the real idiots and criminals here. Wow! What would it be like to be on a police force and actually prevent a person with a legitimate medical condition from receiving the items they were prescribed? Great job!

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Drank to much? Hey my back hurts, my eyes were watering, and my mom was mean to me as a kid so I rolled a fattie and felt up to writing a comment. I HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION! Oh' and my dog just died too…..

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

I'm sure that after an exciting, potentially deadly raid like that, the deputies and DEA guys went to a local watering hole for a few beers…then drove home drunk.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Did the 17 year old have a prescription? If he did, than I would agree that Sheriff Hedges is being unreasonable. However, if no prescription was issued, and Lynch sold to him anyway, then he is in violation of state and federal law, and should face the consequences.

It's only a "medical" dispensary insofar as the marijuana is grown, sold, and used within the strictures of legal medical practice. If Lynch operates outside of those rules, he becomes nothing more than a drug dealer.

We would look askance at a pharmacist who dispensed medicine without a prescription; this case is no different.

One other thing: a "joint" task force going to raid a pot dispensary has to be the Freudian slip of all time!


By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Police and prosecutors make decisions every day about which laws they're going to prosecute. There are all kinds of antiquated laws still on the books that don't get enforced, and this sure belongs in that category. This is a misallocation of resources by the Sheriff's Department. The conflict between Federal and State law needs to be fixed, but such conflicts are often resolved by prosecutors being reasonable and not going after people for buggery or moonshining. This almost amounts to a political prosecution.

I worked with Charlie Lynch years ago, and he's a very decent guy, not some drug pusher who should be locked up. And even if one believes marijuana should be illegal (or at least regulated), these potential sentences are from the dark ages.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Vote for Obama! He has a lot of experiance using illegal drugs! he needs to be our president so we can all get high…maybe he could increase taxes on the rich so we can get high for free…weeeeeeeee :)

To hell with our laws. Obama will gives us everything we ever needed or wanted.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

The reason Hedges got re-elected is because no one ran against his sorry ass. Somebody please stand up ad serve us. Its a great job if you know what your doing. I wish Mike Brennler would have run for it, he would clean things up and put his energy where we are all best served.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

About three years ago I had a severe episodic case of GURD. It was so severe that it damaged my asofigus (sp?). I was hospitalised (short term) and was taking prevacid which seemed to work until I had an allergic reaction to it and was rushed into emergency. Without the medication the GURD returned. I was told to try marijuana and reluctantly did so. It worked. A month later my GURD was gone (after 6 months of previous suffering) and I didn't need the marijuana anymore and stopped using it. The GURD returned in February(2 years later) and I used the marijuana again for 3 days and the GURD went away. I haven't had another occurance so far and if I do I'll used the marijuana again. I am living proof that it isn't addictive. I have no desire to use it for any reason ever except when I have that terrible, painful, debilitating GURD.

The feds and Hedges remind me of the dark ages. STOP with the brainwashing, paranoid bullshit and quit burning witches. I'll be glad when the November Presidential elections come around, I encourage everyone to vote for change. The states deserve respect.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

We need to remember that Hedges is an elected offical. The next election we can vote him out. The county supervisors have no authority over him.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Do you just like to hear yourself talk? Try reading the article before you post you sound like you drank too much.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Pat Hedges needs to get the hell out of this county and out of the State of California. He obviously has no respect for the majority vote of the people and it is inappropriate for him to be compensated as a "public servant". He should apply for a position with the Federal Government since he is an obvious "wana be".I am literally outraged over what has happend here and it seems to me that if this case is going to Federal Court the jury should have all the facts. I encourage people to show up and picket the court court house with signs that state the facts "LYNCH WAS A COMPASSIONATE CARE GIVER". I urge all media to start broadcasting the facts/truth. I also encourage everyone who is concerned to start contacting the County Board of Supervisors and demanding Hedges removal from "paid explotation to serve himself".

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

Paladin, My point is, with limited resources to capture and house miscreants, wouldn't it be better to get the meth-heads at broke into your house, or the child molesters, or any of the sundry scofflaws that actually harm someone?

Otherwise, it doesn't seem to be a great deal of your or my business.


By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

"well-armed and flak-jacketed San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies and federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents" Does that get your blood boiling? What great journalism!

Of course they are going armed and wearing vests(flak jackets, an old military term to prevent shrapnel from exploding shells into aircraft from injuring its occupants), I am sure those deputies and agents wanted to go home at the end of the day.

Another point, what other laws should Sheriff Hedges ignore? If you don't like the law and its unjust, change it! There are enough liberal do gooders in law making positions.

My last question, what is the therapeutic dose for Delta 9 tetrahydrocannaboinol? Is it 2 fatties in the morning of 18% Delta 9 THC or a bowl of 27% in a hooka?

Why hasn't Merck, Lilley, Sandose or others come up with Delta 9 THC medication? Seems there would be some money in somewhere.They still produce Morphine (another plant derivative).

Change the law! Get a company to produce Delta 9 THC in a therapeutic dose (which also means controlling the potency) and problem solved.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

With all the assorted baddies out there, I can't see where pot sales or pot usage warrants the attention of law enforcement at any level. Seems to me crimes with victims are where we ought to be focusing our enforcement attention. I don't get it.

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

I pray that Sheriff hedges never suffers pain in such a manner that marijuana becomes his only recourse for relief. What a tragedy it would be for him to be forced to face his demons instead of making excuses and hiding behind "the law"

By: Anonymous on 7/19/08

My 84-year-old mother had stage 4 terminal bone cancer and given six to nine months to live. She was actually doing pretty well, except for recurring nausea to the point she could hardly eat at times and was wasting away because of it. Traditional anti-nausea medicine wasn't working.

It is a terrible thing to see your mother suffer like that. I mentioned to her cancer doctor that I heard marijuana can help appetite. He agreed and wrote her a prescription for marijuana. Her primary physician agreed. I got her some marijuana and she tried it twice, once smoking, once eating it. It did help her appetite but she wasn't comfortable with the "side effects", being something totally new and different for her.

So, for my mother it was not the perfect medicine. But I can tell you it sure felt important for me to be able to give her that option, to be able to try something to help her when all else was failing. And, especially after talking with the doctors, I am convinced that marijuana does have a legitimate role as a medicine.

Some day some of you who seem to enjoy the idea of people being sent to prison for marijuana will be terminally ill or know someone who is. And there will be a point when you will be clutching at straws to make things just a little bit better for the sick and dying. And some of you in desperation are going to wish you had the chance to give medicinal marijuana a try. And some of you would find it to be a help. I guarantee all of this. And legitimate doctors will also.

And to you people who so actively try to deny medicinal marijuana to people who need it, oh my, if there is such a thing as karma, I feel very sorry for you.

P.S. My mother now rests in peace. And I have peace, knowing I did everything in my power to help her in her time of need.


By: Anonymous on 7/18/08

I have a family member dying of cancer. This is unconscionable. Did you watch the documentary? A young man ravaged with cancer needs help. A guy gives him meds. So you think 100 years in jail is the penalty for trying to help. Sick!!!

By: Anonymous on 7/18/08

I know Mr. Hedges personally. I used to respect him. But he's gone off the deep end on this (and perhaps a few other things.)

I also know legitimate cancer doctors who believe marijuana should be a legal option for patients.

If Hedges wanted to do something positive for the community, instead of filling jail cells at taxpayers expense, he would be working on creating an improved system of for getting legal marijuana to the patients who have a legitimate need.

The system does need improvement, but sending people to prison for life for a marijuana offense does much more harm than good.

Hedges should lay off and let the Feds do what they have to do, but without the help of our local officers.

Why is Hedges so eager to help the Feds? Could it be the Feds have something on him?

By: Anonymous on 7/18/08

Most Old Hippies are today’s Medical medicinal POT users and drug addicts who claim Sh-it helps them.

Hippies rejected accepted social and political values and proclaimed a belief in universal peace and love. Hippies often dressed unconventionally, lived communally, and used psychedelic drugs.

Charles Manson is still a hippie in Prison.

By: Anonymous on 7/18/08

I hope Lynch likes prison. I'm sure the boys will make him feel welcome. Maybe he can learn a trade like gardening…. His 4 profit retail "drug" store seems to violate the state law.

Hey Koory is this article part of your publiity campaign along with Ms. McKellips BS lawsuit? You must be worried your connet is going to the big house after you told him he has nothing to worry about. How do you sleep at night?….oh' you roll your "medicine" and sleep like a baby. I hope Lynch has the same doctor in prison. The nights are the worst…..

By: Anonymous on 7/18/08

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

Kudos to law enforcement

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