GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Lansing man who operated marijuana dispensaries statewide, including two in Kent County, will spend 15 years in prison after he was convicted of 10 federal marijuana trafficking charges.
Marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in Michigan. At the federal level, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance — the same as meth or heroin — but federal arrests in states like Michigan where laws allow marijuana use are rare.
So what happened in Danny Trevino’s case?
In federal court in Grand Rapids Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney handed down the nearly 16-year sentence to Trevino, 47, a man who made YouTube videos calling himself the “professor of pot.”
Not long after Michigan voters approved medical marijuana in 2008, Trevino started opening up dispensaries around the state, including a storefront on Leonard Street NE and another on Old 28th Street in Cascade Township.
There were two problems: Trevino has a lengthy criminal record as a drug offender and could not be a caregiver under state law. Additionally, federal prosecutors alleged he had over half a ton of marijuana at his various facilities and described him as “thumbing his nose” at the law.
Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles said that’s the kind of behavior that will get you noticed by federal authorities.
“Sometimes federal prosecutors have no choice, they’ve got to follow the law. And if someone is flouting the law, they’re going to bring a case,” Miles said.
Robert Hendricks, an attorney who specializes in marijuana business law, said it is important to remember that despite the state’s attitude, the feds have a different view.
“Virtually all marijuana activity violates federal law as it did for the last 50 years under the Controlled Substances Act,” Hendricks said.
While the sentence against Trevino seems harsh, it could have been much worse.
“Federal sentences tend to be long. My understanding in this case was that the sentence actually was at the lower end of the guidelines, but it’s still going to be long compared to a state sentence,” Miles said.
Federal authorities are looking for those people who use decriminalized marijuana laws to engage in illegal activities, which is good for those who are doing it the right way.
“Enforcement of criminal marijuana laws ultimately will work to the benefit of the state regulated industry,” Hendricks said.
At this point, the federal government is not looking to make arrests in states with decriminalization.
“There are finite resources and you can only prosecute so many cases a year and you’re going to focus on where the real problems are and the real problem is heroin, opioids, which kills people,” Miles said.
“If you follow the rules of state medical marijuana law, you don’t really have to worry about federal prosecution,” Hendricks said.