POLITICS
03/03/2014 04:06 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2014

The Feds Toss A Pot Shop Worker In Prison, But They Think He's Got A Bright Future

WASHINGTON -- The efforts of Justice Department prosecutors may be sending former pot shop worker Robert Duncan to prison for two years, but they wanted a federal judge to know they think he's a really great guy.

Duncan, 31, is reporting to federal prison on Monday, having been sentenced to two years for helping manage the growing of medical marijuana for a collective of dispensaries starting in 2010. The dispensaries were legal under state law, but federal law considers them criminal. In a memo ahead of his sentencing in December, federal prosecutors with the Eastern District of California called Duncan the "master-grower for the warehouse operation." But they also indicated they really liked him.

"He certainly impressed both the agents and government counsel as a likeable [sic] person with a good attitude who could lead a productive life in the future," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard J. Bender wrote in the memo. "He is much less likely than the typical defendant to be involved in criminal activity after he gets out of prison."

Duncan was unemployed and his family was financially struggling when he was offered a job at $50,000 per year working for the father of his close friend at a legal pot shop in California. He even sought out legal advice for $800, and the lawyer told him that raids weren't frequent and that the feds would only go after the head of an organization.

"Unfortunately, he received legal advice about this activity only from those with a financial interest in the marijuana industry and drank the Coolaide [sic] with those around him," Bender, the federal prosecutor who works under U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner, wrote in the sentencing memo.

"In the end, he was soon involved in a fast growing illegal business that caught the attention of law enforcement," Bender wrote. "In the end, defendant Duncan did not exercise mature judgment but, given his age and circumstances, his faulty decision making is somewhat easier to understand."

In fact, it was Duncan's maturity that contributed to his prosecution, said his attorney, Thomas A. Johnson. When police raided the growhouse, Duncan quickly told them he was in charge and that they should direct questions to him and not other workers. "There's a dozen people there, and Robert's there, and so they say, 'Whose warehouse is this?" Johnson told HuffPost. "Robert says, 'Don't talk to them, I'm the person who's kind of in charge here, these are just worker bees. That probably was the difference in getting him charged. That's ironic and terrible, but it happened ... Robert's statement that he was the sort-of-supervisor, they used that against him."

Johnson said that prosecutors initially recommended 78 months, but brought the sentence down after Duncan showed pay stubs that demonstrated his low level of involvement. "They realized at that point that Robert was a really good kid, I think. They knew that. Robert has never committed a crime in his life," said Johnson. "It's just a random application of the federal drug enforcement laws. He was literally at the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Huffington Post will interview Duncan live as he surrenders to prison. Visit this page to be alerted when the segment goes live. Learn more about Duncan's case and sign a petition calling for his release here.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

  • Strains of Kaboom and Blue Mystic!
    Nothern Lights Natural Rx
    The two strains (the latter of which is pictured here) are among those most popular at Northern Lights Natural Rx, says co-owner Eva Woolhiser. But when it comes to edibles, she said customers will go for "anything."
  • The Ominously-Named 'Death Star' Strain!
    Dank Colorado
    Owner Justin Jones of Dank Colorado: "Our Death Star [strain] has been really popular."
  • And Blue Daddy and Mr. Pink Too!
    Sean Barbas
    "Our in house strains like Blue Daddy and Mr. Pink (pictured here) have been really popular,” Mile High Medical Cannabis store manager Sean Barbas said. "It’s been nuts”
  • 'Euphoric' Cannabis Concentrate!
    At The Health Center, owner Tiffany Goldman said a product called Shatter was the top choice among recreational customers before it sold out. Officially known as a cannabis concentrate, it's a form of hash and "according to most people it's more euphoric.
  • Blue Kudu Chocolate!
    Bluekudu.com
    The edible has been especially popular at Kine Mine, but customers shouldn't get in over their heads. "We’ve been warning people about the potency," CEO and founder Theran Snyder said.
  • Pop Rocks Candy Bars!
    Incredibles
    "Edibles have been flying off the shelves," Denver Kush owner Darin Smith said. "We’ve found particular success with the Incredibles Fireworks bar. It’s got chocolate mixed with pop rocks and the packaging is just great."
  • Weed Flowers!
    Tim Cullen
    “Cannabis flowers have been flying out the door," Evergreen Apothecary co-owner Tim Cullen said. "People have been waiting two hours for just two minutes in the store and couldn’t be happier for it.”
  • Weed Sodas!
    AP
    THC-infused sodas are displayed for sale in a cooler at The Clinic, a Denver-based marijuana dispensary with several outlets.
  • Something Called a TKO Bar, Whatever That Is!
    Hank Borunda
    "The TKO bar is most popular amongst patients," The Greener Side Owner Hank Borunda wrote in an email to HuffPost.
  • Here's What A Weed Menu Looks LIke!
    AP
    A recreational marijuana menu and price list sits on a counter at 3D Cannabis Center.
  • And Some Normal Bagged Weed!
    Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
    Packages of marijuana labeled for recreational use are spread out on a counter at Northern Lights Cannabis Co in Edgewater, Colorado on January 1, 2014.
  • And Of Course, Just Plain, Old Weed Cigarettes!
    AP
    Different strains of marijuana are displayed for sale at The Clinic in Denver.
Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?

CONVERSATIONS