Although the DEA’s search warrant states that evidence would be seized proving not only marijuana cultivation, but also sales and money laundering, the Smiths were only charged with growing 1289 marijuana plants. Steele believes this fact bodes well for their trial. “Not only can we mention Proposition 215 in our defense, but this is purely about cultivation,” he says. “It’s a difficult sell for the government to tell the jury we are public enemy No. 1.”
At the advice of their attorneys, they’ve already rejected a plea agreement that would have cut their decade-long sentence in half, and they firmly believe the feds will drop the case rather than risk a costly trial that could backfire.
Defense attorney Eric Shevin agrees with that sentiment but says he’d love to get this case in front of a jury. “This is the first time a judge has even allowed a defendant to use the words ‘medical marijuana,’” he says. “Once the jury understand what’s going on, they can nix the case. My clients were completely in compliance with state law even before the [California] attorney general’s guidelines were released [in 2008] for Senate Bill 420 [the 2003 state medical-marijuana law], which called for an effective plan for affordable distribution. The evolution of the law gives us the advantage. Right now, we are not guilty, and I like being not guilty.”