Wes Woods II, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/07/2013 10:23:43 AM PST
Updated: 01/07/2013 06:40:13 PM PST

LOS ANGELES – A former medical marijuana dispensary owner on Monday was sentenced to 10 years in prison for operating three facilities in the Inland Empire.

Aaron Sandusky, one of only a handful of defendants to fight U.S. prosecutors, was convicted in October on federal charges of distributing marijuana.

Sandusky faced as much as life in prison, but U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson gave him the minimum sentence possible under federal guidelines.

“In this case, as the defendant was warned, the court’s hands are tied,” Anderson said. “Whether you agree with the defendant’s position or not.”

Sandusky was charged with conspiring to manufacture and possess marijuana with intent to distribute it, conspiring to operate a drug-involved premises and and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it.

His case is one of four in the United States where federal prosecutors filed charges against individuals associated with medical marijuana dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal. These cases have garnered national attention, in part, because marijuana advocates have criticized the federal government for disregarding state laws allowing the possession and sale of marijuana for medicinal use.

Sandusky, 42, of Rancho Cucamonga, previously worked in the mortgage industry before opening dispensaries in Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley.

In his sentencing memo, Anderson noted that Sandusky was running an illegal marijuana operation under cover of California’s medical marijuana laws.

Sandusky “used G3 as a means to replace the vast income he lost from the collapse of his real estate business,” Anderson wrote. “Defendant built a veneer of legitimacy around his criminal enterprise using his customers’ good-faith search for pain relief.

“There is absolutely no altruistic component to defendant’s continued and sustained criminality.”

California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, allowing medical marijuana in the state, while state Senate Bill 420, which details the amount of marijuana a person can possess for medical purposes, prevents cities and counties from banning marijuana dispensaries.

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