FARMINGTON — Charlie Lynch's story is both heroic and tragic, according to a new documentary based on the Farmington native's ongoing battle with the federal government.
Lynch, 46, ran a medical marijuana dispensary in Moro Bay, Calif., and was thrust into the national spotlight when he was convicted in 2008 of federal drug distribution, despite being in compliance with California state law.
"This is an American story," said Rick Ray, the California documentary filmmaker who produced "Lynching Charlie Lynch." "This is the story of a man caught in the cross hairs of forces bigger than him, when all along he's been trying to do the right thing."
Ray is not an advocate for medical marijuana.
"I was assigned to do a shoot about Charlie as a cameraman for the Reason Foundation (a nonprofit think tank out of Los Angeles)," Ray said. "I didn't have high expectations for Charlie. I figured he would probably be a bit shady."
Lynch was not shady.
"It didn't make sense to me," Ray said. "He was the farthest thing from the criminal type. Charlie is the type of guy you want doing your bookkeeping, as your accountant."
Ray is not the only person involved with the case to express how honest and up-front Lynch is. When Federal Judge George Wu issued his sentencing statement, he wrote that Lynch's scrupulous bookkeeping made it easier for the prosecution to make its case.
"This case is not like that of a common drug dealer buying and selling drugs without regulation, government oversight and with no other concern other than making profits." Wu wrote. "In this case, the defendant opened a marijuana dispensary under the guidelines set forth by the state of California. ... His purpose for opening the dispensary was to provide marijuana to those who, under California law, (were) qualified to receive it for medical reasons."
Though Lynch was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, his case is far from closed. Both Lynch and the federal government appealed Judge Wu's ruling.
"The government appealed because they felt one year wasn't enough," Lynch said. "They are asking for five years in prison. They're still trying to throw me in jail even though there are dispensaries all over the country, even in Washington, D.C."
Medical marijuana is still a contentious issue nationwide, and the debate is far from over.
New Mexico has allowed the medical use of cannabis since 2007, but the local government still is struggling with the law's implementation. The Farmington City Council will debate zoning restrictions on where marijuana can be grown at its Tuesday meeting.
Lynch, who still resides in California, has gone back to his previous career as a software programmer.
Come March 27, Lynch will have dealt with this issue for four years.
"After getting involved in Charlie's case, I felt so strongly that he was being wronged that I made this documentary out of my heart, out of my pocket," Ray said. "It was a labor of love and I wanted to put the camera on it."
The documentary will premiere at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival on at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9:30 p.m. Saturday. There are no immediate plans for a screening in Farmington.
"We're looking for feedback and possible distribution," Ray said. "After the San Luis Obispo Film Festival, we plan on going forward to some bigger festivals."
Those interested in following Lynch's case can visit his website www.friendsofccl.com.
"My next court date keeps getting put off," Lynch said. He is out of jail on a $400,000 bail since appealing his original sentencing in 2009. "At this point, it is scheduled for April 19. It really feels like the world is moving on without me, like I'm stuck four years in the past."
The Daily Times
March 07, 2011
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