Hello, Reddit.

I'm Steven Ragland, one of the attorneys representing Matthew Davies, who's facing some serious time in federal prison for operating a legal, permitted, and tax-paying small business that provided medical marijuana for patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other conditions in Stockton and Sacramento, CA. For more about his case, take a look at this NYT article from Monday.

I'll be here to take your questions from 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT to 7:45/4:45 or so -- Ask Me Anything!


Ok, since you probably have no idea who I am, here's me on CurrentTV last night, and here I am now.


Obviously, this is an ongoing legal case so, I may not be able to answer EVERYTHING, but feel free to ask, and I'll do my best to answer what I can.


Again, this NYT link explains the case. If you'd like to speak out, please visit KeepMattFree.org to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to drop this persecution, and you can keep up with Matt's case on our Facebook page.

Thanks so much!

UPDATE: 4:57 pm (PT) -- It's been great, reddit. Thanks! I've got to run at the moment, but keep the questions coming, and I'll try to answer them later. Thanks again!

Comments: 117 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

aidsburger18 karma

UMASS Law student here: Could you provide any insight into your strategy going into this, during plea negotiations, or if it goes all the way to trial? I don’t want to impose into privileged information though. For example, it seems like a good idea to open the door into character evidence if you go to trial given his spotless record and accordance with state law. I know that an officer smelling marijuana is generally probable cause for a search, but is there any way to defend on 4th amendment grounds? It seems to me that the supremacy clause and the doctrine of preemption make it extremely hard for a very successful outcome, but I wish you all the best!

stevenragland24 karma

You raise very good questions -- obviously UMASS is doing right by you. If we do have to confront a trial, we will have to address these issues then. There are unknowns with regard to the evidence that will be admitted, the interplay of federal and state law, and the proclamations made by the government that people like Matt who comply with state law with regard to medical marijuana will not be prosecuted by the feds. Our fervent hope, however, is that enough people will hear about this case, go to KeepMattFree.org and sign the petition, and that will result in the Obama Administration or the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California to reevaluate their position, sit down with us, and discuss a just resolution which does not involve sending this good man to prison.

AngryCyc14 karma

Truly noble work you are doing. I'm glad to see there are lawyers out there who are really trying to PROTECT people and use the law as it's supposed to be. Anyway, on to my question: What's your favorite kind of salad dressing?

stevenragland19 karma

An advice of Hidden Valley Ranch, I must decline to answer that question...

Seriously, being a Californian with year-round access to fresh, delicious lettuces of all kinds, avocadoes, etc., I prefer a very light balsamic olive oil dressing.

Wiznuts10 karma

Will you tell Matt davies that ive heard his story and i hope he gets back home to his family.

He's got alot of support.

With much love,

  • WIZ

stevenragland9 karma

Thank you, I'm know the outpouring of support means the world to Matt and his wife Molly. I just hope his young daughters don't have to try to find cold comfort in the kind words in between visits with their Daddy in federal prison. Thank you all for raising your voices to try to prevent that terrible injustice.

zaneluke7 karma

I have been following this case and the wife and I were talking about this while chilling out in the hot tub. I think he is going to go to jail, but not for the whole ten years. I have a feeling that this might turn up via appeals oat the United States supreme court.

My questions.

Is Matt ready to be the first guy to stand up for state versus federal rights?

Do you think every lawyer in Colorado and Washington are glued to this case?

Are you ready to invest the time to go all the way to the top court?

stevenragland4 karma

Good questions. Hard to say what the future will hold. Again, my hope is that forums like this, people raising awareness, etc. will result in a reevaluation and a resolution that does not send Matt to prison.

C_M_Burns6 karma

What do you see as the biggest hurdle you face?

Also, when do you anticipate marijuana will be legal on a nationwide basis?

stevenragland17 karma

Right now, it is raising enough awareness about this injustice to provoke decision-makers to take notice and reevaluate the prosecutor's current position. I hope everyone out there can give us a boost over that hurdle by going to KeepMattFree.org and signing the petition.

On your other question, I do think that if Matt Davies is sent to prison for a decade, by the time he gets out Phillip Morris may be selling medical marijuana cigarrettes and Merck may be manufacturing edibles.

stevenragland8 karma

The biggest hurdle is raising enough awareness so that decision-makers take notice and reevaluate prosecutor's current position. I hope everyone out there helps us clear that by going to KeepMattFree.org and signing the petition.

I think if Matt Davies is sent to prison for a decade, by the time he gets out Phillip Morris may be selling medical marijuana cigarettes and Merck manufacturing edibles.

JimmyTVancouver6 karma

hello I'm involved new approach Washington, we pressed successfully in to law I-502, I would suggest an internally different strategy of court of public opinion. PUBLICLY SHAME EVERY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE THAT TOUCHES THIS CASE. Names homelands families, let all know who they are, give them no darkness to hide then hold them up for personal public humiliation so they will KNOW THEY ARE in a Minority. Surround the court grounds in protesters, wheel chair grandmas pointing a finger of SHAME. BOLD FEARLESS AND IN THEIR FACE SO THEY CAN NEVER THINK THEY COULD HIDE and make the biggest Hollywood Circus sense Michel Jackson, Call OPRAH, that they fear.... world wide public put down. BULLIE THEM NOW...

stevenragland6 karma

I think public opinion is key and appreciate the passion. However, I am not going to support going to homes, families, etc. But please do sign the petition, write and email to officials at their business addresses to express concern, have voices heard in a way that does not vilify or frighten anyone. I obviously think this is a very unjust prosecution and if folks just took the time to consider it, they will see that there is a better approach. I think we will accomplish that better through awareness and dialog than shouting and humiliation.

traditionalAmerican5 karma

Is it possible to have the federal government return the tax funds that they so readily accepted so that it can help to fund Matthew Davies court case? Obviously he gave them the tax money in 'good faith' which has been betrayed. This money should be returned to him immediately as a 'breach of contract' between himself and the federal government who has now detained him after profiting from his business.

traditionalAmerican7 karma

What is more, the federal government has openly profitted from a business that they now consider illegal.

stevenragland6 karma

And, if Matt had been permitted to continue his works, hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxes would have already been paid to the federal government (not to mention all the state and local taxes), with more to come.

stevenragland6 karma

If only that were possible. You hit on a good issue -- reliance on assurances from the federal government that it would not go after folks who complied with state law and did not have guns, loads of undeclared cash, or illicit drugs like meth and heroin. The law condemns those who make promises that others reasonably rely on to their detriment. Unfortunately, different rules apply to the sovereign.

stevenragland3 karma

Thanks, everyone. This is the first time I have done AMA and it was a blast. Great questions and, again, thank you all for taking note of the case and for caring.

baraqiyal3 karma

Do you have any insight as to why the Feds are so fervently anti-marijuana? I don't understand why it's such a big issue with them.

stevenragland3 karma

Neither do I, especially given that it goes directly against the will of millions of Californians and those in other states who voted to approve medical marijuana.

mikedish3 karma

Why is the federal government even involved in this? Didn't they say they were going to back off people who were in compliance with state law?

stevenragland4 karma

That is the question everyone is asking. Yes, candidate Obama and then President Obama through his own Deputy Attorney General and other statements repeatedly assured people that the federal government would not prosecute people like Matt Davies who worked to comply with state law. Just the other week, President Obama said the feds have "bigger fish to fry" than go after recreational users in CO and WA where voters approved such use. We want to know whether this case is a rogue prosecutor or whether it signals a shift Obama Administration policy. If the feds can prosecute Matt Davies, they can go after anyone involved in medical marijuana in states that have approved its use. ANd that will leave a vacuum to be filled by folks who don't pay taxes, who have secret grows under armed guard, or who traffic in heroin, meth, and other illicit drugs. THis is not what the people of California want and I hope United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner decides to start respecting the will of the people of his state and steps in to resolve this case in a way that doesn't send Matt to prison.

[deleted]1 karma


stevenragland4 karma

The city of Stockton, where Matt lives and had a dispensary has an unemployment rate twice the national average. Recently, a man was killed and robbed for the gold chain on his neck in broad daylight. I think the people of Stockton would want limited federal law enforcement resources deployed to help counter this crime instead of imprisoning Matt and putting dozens of people who worked for him and work for him still in the restaurant he runs out of work.

dopamine263 karma

Hello, I have a 3 part question. Any chance for jury nullification, is that even a real thing? Who has an advantage in jury selection? What's an estimate on how much this will cost the government to bring to trial? Thank you for the work you're doing.

stevenragland7 karma

I am afraid I'm going to have to side-step your first two parts of this question. As to the cost, the Atlantic reported on Monday that it costs a minimum of $1 million to prosecute a case like this. And, that doesn't even count all the lost money in taxes that would have been paid to the federal government if it had left Matt alone. Matt paid hundreds of thousands in state, local, and federal taxes before the feds raided.

Thank you for caring and for (all together now) going to KeepMattFree.org and signing the petition. Like on Facebook, spread the word, shout from the rooftops (virtual and real) and help justice be done.

revengeofpompom3 karma

As a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Northern California, just want to say I wish you guys the best of luck. I cannot fathom the USAs' decision-making process in these cases, and it pisses me off to no end that scarce federal resources are going towards these prosecutions.

Annnyway, a few wonky questions for you: What do you think of Doug Berman's hypotheses about the constitutional limits on federal sentences in cases like these?

What judge & MJ are you in front off?

Perhaps this is looking ahead to your appellate strategy in a way you don't wish to discuss, but do you see any route to overturning Raich?

stevenragland6 karma

Thanks for the kinds words. I have frequently followed the Sentencing Law & Policy blog and think Berman has great insights. I hope we don't have to put his hypotheses to the test or get to the need for appellate review. I just cannot believe that anyone who takes a close look at this case will really want to send Matt to prison.

We are in front of U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (Sacramento).

The appellate strategy question is also a good one. Without getting into specifics, great care must always be taken to preserve appellate rights and create a good record for appeal.

bananaspickesJAr3 karma

is there any hope for the eastern states? what about the bible belt?

stevenragland9 karma

I don't think I'm qualified to comment on the politics in individual states. I just wish the federal government would abide by its promises and respect the will of the people in states like California who overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana and leave good, law-abiding people like Matt Davies alone.

stevenragland6 karma

I don't think I'm qualified to speculate on the politics in various states. I just hope the federal government will respect the will of the people in states like California and leave good, law-abiding people like Matt alone.

smellsliketuna3 karma

Is there any legal precedent, or is this the first of its kind?

stevenragland7 karma

There have been other federal prosecutions of folks in California who were involved in medical marijuana. But what is unique about Matt's case is that he was so rigorous in doing everything properly. A payroll processing company handled paychecks and made tax withholdings, he purchased insurance from Lloyd's of London, he openly applied for a permit to run a medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, he had an accountant, spent a million dollars on compliance attorneys. I have never seen anyone work so hard to do things right.

curiotopia3 karma

Aside from our moral support and help fundraising, what can an average citizen do to support Matt?

stevenragland5 karma

Go to KeepMattFree.Org and sign the petition, spread the word, like on Facebook. Keep tuned to the website for other news and other ways to help soon.

Krotchy3 karma

Why is he getting in trouble if it's "permitted"? I don't understand how you can get in trouble with the law if you're not doing anything wrong

nhexum7 karma

It's permitted by state law but illegal by federal law

stevenragland3 karma

Yes, there is a disconnect between state and federal law. The State of California permits medical marijuana and California state authorities did not and have not charged Matt with anything. Unfortunately, despite candidate Obama and later President Obama and members of his administration repeatedly assuring the public that they would not come after people like Matt who worked to comply with state law and were legitimate providers of medical marijuana to qualified patients, the reality in this case is a different story.

hhhnnnnnggggggg3 karma

Thanks for this. Keep up the replies and we'll try to bump you up to front page. =)

EDIT: Are we allowed to cross post this to /r/politics ?

stevenragland4 karma

Thanks. Please bump this as high as it can go for Matt's sake. I apologize for having to take a break in the replies for a little bit ... a local Sacramento television station was interviewing me and Matt's wife Molly for the evening news. The link will be posted at KeepMattFree.Org, along with other media coverage.

Th3MadCreator2 karma

I haven't been following this case that much, so could you tell me why it is he was arrested?

stevenragland6 karma

Because he was involved in medical marijuana which is not permitted under federal law, he has been charged in federal court. If the feds can do this to Matt, they can go after anyone involved in medical marijuana in any state where it is legal. California authorities did not arrest him or charge him with anything, nor would they because he followed state law.

Wiznuts2 karma

How well do you think your defense will hold up against federal law?

also, It would be great if you could set a precedent for other cases!!!!

stevenragland3 karma

Good question and all I can say is that we will have to see if we get there. I just hope we don't have to. If enough people go to KeepMattFree.org and sign the petition and raise awareness, that could provoke decision-makers to reevaluate this ill-advised and unjust prosecution.

MikefromPrison2 karma


stevenragland3 karma

Many thanks. Matt is the real good man here. He should be an example of how things should be done with regard to medical marijuana in California. And, his courage and commitment to stand up for himself and for the righteousness of his cause are an inspiration.

Rosindust892 karma

Would you rather defend a client from 100 duck sized horses, or a horse sized duck?

stevenragland6 karma

How many pecks could a wood chuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck would?

I'm from Kentucky originally, so I'd go for the 100 horses no matter how liliputian.

hhhnnnnnggggggg3 karma

A woodchuck would peck as much wood as a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

stevenragland3 karma

Indeed he would if he could chuck that much wood...

mgizzle2 karma

Do you expect this case to reach the US Supreme Court? If so, and they rule to decriminalize the sale of marijuana in states where it is legal, do you think there will always be a fight against illegal substances of some sort, or will this verdict be enough to leave substance use up to the states?

stevenragland3 karma

I can't really predict the future for this case. Not to get too academic, but the history of the Supreme Court in this country has generally not been of an institution on the leading edge of social movements or cultural shifts. I think the courts--and our elected officials and their appointees--are behind the curve of public opinion and need to do some catching up.

jshiff2 karma

Just voted. good luck, im on probation for cultivation of marijuana myself. I hate seeing the justice system soaking innocent people of their freedom and money. How many votes do u need for this to reach the Obama Administration or the United States Attorney

stevenragland2 karma

Thank you! The more signatures the better and the more voices that speak up, the more likely decision-makers in Washington DC will take notice. After a certain number of signatures are collected -- I believe 25,000, but am not certain as I sit here tonight -- the Administration will have to take an official position.

threekittens2 karma

What did he do to draw the fed's attention to himself?

stevenragland2 karma

Not hide the fact of what he was doing. The collective in Sacramento ran television ads, he submitted a permit to Sacramento with his name on it. Was not hard to find him.

LiquorballSandwich2 karma

How does this case compare to that of Canadian Marc Emery, who was convicted of selling seeds in the states despite having never actually been there?

stevenragland5 karma

I'm not familiar with the details of that case so can't comment. Sorry.

lustiq2 karma

I really can not see how they will be able to win this case, and was it made from a client complaint or could it be someone that is also, doing his kind of work and is out to get him for some personal reason??

stevenragland3 karma

It started out as an investigation by local police into a false burglary alarm. The state authorities took no action and they were looking over all the paperwork to prove it was on the up-and-up and legitimate, then the feds took over and changed the whole thing. No state charges have been brought and I am convinced they never would have been.

bunknown2 karma

Was Matt's business on property he owned? If not, was Matt a good neighbor to the other businesses around him? Also, who approved Matt's license? I ask because i am unfamiliar with CA laws regarding this issue.


stevenragland6 karma

Matt leased space in buildings that now sit unoccupied in a city with astronomically high unemployment. In addition to the approximately 75 good jobs his work provided, other businesses like a cafe sprung up in the area and now are gone. I think his neighbors would all say he was a good person to have next door.

Frajer1 karma

What do you think the chances are that your client will win?

Do you find any of the prosecution's arguments valid?

stevenragland9 karma

I don't like to throw out odds on my client's cases. I do, however, believe that anyone who sits down with Matt and his lovely family and hears the whole story, and looks at all the records, will be convinced that justice will not be done by sending Matt to prison. He is a model of how things should be done. I do not think there is any valid purpose in prosecuting Matt Davies, who paid taxes, employed dozens of people with good jobs, and provided a legitimate, safe source of medical marijuana to qualified patients.