Chris Williams was working as a medical marijuana provider in Helena, Mont. in 2011 when federal agents raided the greenhouse he was in charge of and arrested him for drug trafficking. More than a year later, he's been found guilty on eight federal drug charges, which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of more than 80 years in prison.
While Williams continues to fight the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail -- a task made more difficult by his earlier refusal to accept a plea bargain over his belief that he hadn't broken any laws -- his supporters have mounted a petition calling on the White House to grant him a pardon. It's since crossed the 25,000 signature threshold needed to be addressed by the administration.
From the petition:
Mr. William's sentence, a sentence that will take him away from his family for the rest of his life, is most certainly cruel and unusual.
We call on President Obama to review the facts of the case and grant Mr. Williams a full Pardon.
While medical marijuana use was legal in Montana at the time of his arrest, the Associated Press reports that Williams wasn't permitted to argue in his trial that he followed state laws regulating medical marijuana. Montana voters have since voted on a ballot measure to severely limit the use and distribution of cannabis. The Justice Department maintains that medical marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
Williams has appealed his criminal conviction in federal court. He's the lead plaintiff in the suit, which claims that federal authorities have violated states rights as laid out in the 10th Amendment with crackdowns on medical marijuana that is legal in Montana. Observers admit that he has little chance of winning.