Jack was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, despite consulting with attorneys and friends in law enforcement to ensure that his involvement with medical marijuana dispensaries was lawful. UPDATE: Jack Carpenter was released in December 2017.
Jack Carpenter is serving 10 years in prison for growing medical marijuana in California. Despite his efforts to abide by state laws, he was charged in federal court and sentenced to a 10-year mandatory minimum prison term. Jack was born in Chicago, but his family moved around a lot while he was growing up. As a child, Jack suffered from a painful stomach condition, but he managed to do well in school and played sports, including water polo, running track and wrestling.
Sadly, when Jack was 10 years old, his grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Severely weakened by the disease and her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Jack’s grandmother started using marijuana as a last ditch effort. This alleviated much of her discomfort, helped her regain her appetite and with it enough strength to spend her remaining time visiting with family members and loved ones. His grandmother’s experience left a profound impact on 10-year-old Jack.
After he graduated from his California high school in 1984, Jack went on to attend California State University at Fullerton on a wrestling scholarship. He was pursuing his undergraduate studies in math, but after a serious sports injury cost him his scholarship, Jack dropped out of school. He joined the Marines and became a military police officer. After completing his service, Jack set out to pursue a career in business. He was involved in many ventures, often with his family – Jack built and sold a vending machine company, helped his parents run a pool cleaning and repair service and started a restaurant. A year into running the restaurant, Jack realized that working 16-18 hour days, seven days a week was causing health problems. They sold the restaurant and Jack moved to California with his wife, trying to live a healthier, less stressful life. Soon after, Jack got involved in real estate and investing.
In college, Jack experimented with marijuana and found that it helped to alleviate some of his ongoing stomach pain. As an adult, Jack used marijuana medicinally, despite knowing that it was an illegal substance. In 1991, he was arrested for possessing marijuana and was sentenced to 5 days in jail and ordered to pay a $100 fine. After California legalized medicinal marijuana possession in 1996, Jack obtained a medical use card allowing him, under state law, to use marijuana to treat his stomach condition and to grow marijuana for personal medical use.
Three years later, Jack was pulled over and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. Jack says he had taken his medicinal marijuana dose four hours earlier, but was convicted after a blood test showed marijuana in his body. Jack was fined and order to complete 48 hours of community service.
Jack continued to operate his real estate venture, but realized that the booming housing market wouldn’t last forever and started to think about other options. Over the years, Jack had developed a relationship with the owners of a medical marijuana dispensary. Jack grew his own marijuana for personal medicinal use and talked to the dispensary owners about growing for them. Before agreeing, Jack consulted with attorneys and friends in law enforcement, became familiar with California’s medical marijuana laws and received paperwork from the dispensaries. Satisfied that he was doing everything by the books, Jack began growing marijuana in three homes in California, still juggling his investing and real estate ventures. The marijuana was only grown for the dispensaries and never sold directly to patients. Nevertheless, his actions were illegal under federal law.
In 2008, Jack says a burglar broke into one of his homes, where Jack was growing marijuana. Shortly after, the burglar was arrested breaking into another home and offered to provide information about the marijuana he saw in Jack’s home in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Officers searched Jack’s property and found marijuana. They searched the other two homes, confiscating a total of 2846 marijuana plants from the three houses. Officers also discovered $16,000 in cash belonging to one of Jack’s employees in the backyard of one of the properties. Jack was arrested, along with his wife and four employees, and charged with conspiracy to grow and distribute marijuana.
In 2009, Jack and his wife were arrested in Washington State while traveling to Canada for possessing a small amount of marijuana. The misdemeanor state charges stemming from the arrest were dropped.
In federal court, Jack pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute at least 1000 marijuana plants. He was considered the leader of the conspiracy. With minimal criminal history, Jack would have received 70-87 months in prison under the federal sentencing guidelines, but the mandatory minimum sentencing laws required Jack’s judge to send him to prison for 10 years. His codefendants received sentences ranging from probation to 30 months in prison.
Since his incarceration, Jack’s wife has filed for divorce. Jack’s father and uncle, both of whom had close relationship with Jack, have passed away leaving no one to care for his sick mother. Despite these hardships, Jack remains close with his mother, has a perfect disciplinary record and has taken numerous classes including a college accredited computer science course and Spanish classes. Jack has devoted himself to bible study, even acting as the prison minister delivering sermons while the official prison chaplain was on sick leave.
The Facts: Jack Carpenter
Sentence: 10 years
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute marijuana
Priors: Possession of marijuana (1991); driving under the influence of marijuana (1999)
Year sentenced: 2010
Age at sentencing: 45
Release date: 2017