HELENA (AP) — A lobbyist who became the face of the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Montana and helped draft the initiative approved by voters in 2004 won't see jail time on a federal conviction related to the pot business he co-founded.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Tom Daubert Thursday in Missoula to five years' probation. Daubert had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises, a charge that stems from the 2011 raid of a Montana Cannabis, the medical marijuana provider Daubert co-founded in 2009.
Christensen disregarded federal prosecutors' recommendation for a prison sentence between 6 ½ and eight years.
Daubert did not immediately return a call or email for comment. His attorney, Peter Lacny, said he believes the judge took Daubert's history and background into consideration in handing down the sentence.
"He was pretty worried going into the sentencing," Lacny said of Daubert. "I think it's going to take a few days to get his head on and then go back to working in various ways to the benefit of Montanans."
Daubert started his lobbying and public relations firm, Daubert Associates, in 1985. He has represented businesses and local governments before the state Legislature and spearheaded initiative advocacy campaigns.
The Missoula resident received the Bureau of Land Management's Public Lands Award in 1997 for his grant writing and fundraising to support preserving the Garnet Ghost Town.
In recent years, he was best known as the director for Patients and Families United, a medical marijuana advocacy group that lobbied to allow severely ill patients to use the drug. He helped draft Initiative 148, which passed in 2004 and made medical marijuana legal in Montana.
Five years later, he started Montana Cannabis with partners Chris Williams, Chris Lindsey and Richard Flor. A fifth partner left the business soon after its founding.
At its peak, Montana Cannabis provided marijuana for more than 300 registered users from multiple locations across the state, and ran a massive grow operation in the old State Nursery outside Helena.
All that came crashing down in March 2011 when federal agents, backed by state and local law enforcement officials, raided multiple Montana Cannabis locations and the nursery among the 26 search warrants executed in a crackdown on what had become a booming pot industry.
The marijuana providers who ran those businesses, including Daubert, protested that they were following state laws and should not be prosecuted for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act. Federal prosecutors said their investigation targeted large-scale drug organizations, and that federal law prevails in any conflict with state laws.
More than two dozen people have been indicted as a result of the raids.
Daubert pleaded guilty in April to the conspiracy charge. Lindsey planned to plead guilty to the same charge later Thursday.
Flor previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. He died late last month in the custody of U.S. Marshals while being transferred to a new prison.
Williams has a trial date of Sept. 24.