A judge sentenced Billy Hayes, Arizona’s most outspoken cannabis activist and entrepreneur, to two years in prison for his involvement with two different cannabis dispensaries. Hayes had been fighting the charges for over two years and turned down a plea deal in 2014 that could have landed him in prison for up to 12 years.
His most recent plea bargain involved two different cases and three charges; one count of possession of narcotics for sale, one count of possession of marijuana for sale and one count of misconduct with weapons that came with a minimum sentence of two years. The courtroom was tense but Superior Court Judge Carolyn Passamonte opted to not make Hayes serve any additional time.
Hayes told New Times it was “rough” that he couldn’t use the defense arguments he wanted, and that officials still didn’t seem to be interpreting the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) correctly.
Although Hayes will spend the next the two years behind bars, he doesn’t exactly deserve to be there and his imprisonment might be more political than punitive.
In 2010, after Arizona governor Jan Brewer cancelled the dispensary system enacted by state voters, Hayes helped organize the first compassion clubs where members could obtain free cannabis. This was a way to legally work around existing laws in response to the recent re-birth of prohibition.
Hayes even sued to have the AMMA amended to allow people who live within a 25 mile radius of a dispensary to cultivate cannabis. Ultimately he was unsuccessful, but if not him fighting the fight, than who?
The ACS was eventually raided for maintaining a number of plants exceeding the state limit, but Hayes was never charged. Instead he distanced himself from the operation and turned his attention toward his cannabis lounge, however, the police raided that establishment as well.
When Hayes refused to take a deal after the police raided his lounge, he and four others were hit with multiple charges stemming from the police raid on the ACS the year before.
During the proceeding Hayes was described as having a compassionate nature, and according to personal testimony, he was not under the impression that he was breaking the law. Hayes is the father of two girls and is about to share to his 10th anniversary with his wife.
Aside from an auto theft in his adolescence, Billy Hayes has only been convicted of cannabis related offenses. The last time he was behind bars he used the law library to gain the knowledge necessary to sue the state of Arizona. It’s impossible to tell what the future holds for Billy Hayes but if this drug war veteran comes out of the clink with both feet on the ground, I would expect his next endeavors to be nothing short of amazing.