Feds Go After Wildly Successful Medical Pot Sellers


"They're just a couple of nice kids from Berkeley who wound up being the victims of their own success."

That's how lawyer and longtime family friend Harold Rosenthal summed up the case against his clients Winslow and Abraham Norton, the brothers charged last week with moving an estimated $49 million worth of pot through their marijuana dispensary just outside Hayward over the past three years.

And, believe it or not, the brothers paid state and federal taxes on all of it. What's more, their dispensary had a medical marijuana permit issued by Alameda County and was regularly visited by sheriff's deputies to make sure everything was on the up and up.

Although as Sheriff Gregory Ahern told us in a recent interview, most of the young "patients" who frequented the dispensary on Mission Boulevard didn't "appear to be suffering from any serious illness."

Nevertheless, state law allows marijuana be sold to anyone who has a doctor's note, which - if you know the right doctor - takes about 15 minutes and costs about $100.

Winslow Norton, 26, who lives in Lafayette, and 23-year-old Abraham Norton of Oakland were indicted by the feds on charges of conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, distribution of marijuana, maintaining drug-involved premises, conspiracy to launder money and money laundering.

The feds said the brothers used drug proceeds to purchase luxury items and properties, including two new Mercedes-Benzes, a new Ford F-250 truck, three new motorcycles and Winslow's Lafayette home.

Details here from the San Francisco Chronicle. You know, these guys were (apparently) in compliance with California state and local laws. Yet they violated federal drug laws. This case cries out for "jury nullification" -- even if the feds prove that the defendants violated federal drug laws, the jury could refuse to convict them.
Question: Say I was called for jury duty in this federal case. I am a licensed California attorney. During voir dire, I inform the judge that I cannot vote to convict the defendants of violating federal drug laws no matter what the evidence is, because I think these particular federal laws are in conflict with California state laws and are not in keeping with the federal Constitution. I think the California state and local laws predominate and I think that the defendants complied with them. Would this violate my Oath as a California attorney and/or imperil my ability to practice law in California?

The attorney Oath is defined in California Business and Professions Code section 6068, and states as follows:

6068. It is the duty of an attorney to do all of the following:

(a) To support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.

(b) To maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers.

(c) To counsel or maintain those actions, proceedings, or defenses only as appear to him or her legal or just, except the defense of a person charged with a public offense.

(d) To employ, for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to him or her those means only as are consistent with truth, and never to seek to mislead the judge or any judicial officer by an artifice or false statement of fact or law.

(e) (1) To maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client.