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Convicted medical marijuana provider speaks out from jail

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 22 2012 02:03:52 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 22 2012 09:34:03 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Chris Williams has been called the martyr for medical marijuana.

The federal government raided his state-sanctioned grow facility in 2011. He was incarcerated after his trial, but kept up the legal battle with appeals- though he later signed a post-conviction compromise.

In the meantime, he gained national attention and support. Petitions for his cause saw tens of thousands of signatures. One petition for his pardon on the White House website got enough support to seek a response by President Obama, though he hasn't written one yet.

With the opportunity to talk to Williams, we asked him just where things stand now in his fight for himself, and medical marijuana.

"I'm nervous that they're going to try to put me in prison for a much, much longer time than five or ten years" Williams told us on the phone, from the Missoula County Detention Center on Saturday.

He faces a minimum five years, maximum life in prison on two charges. Before signing that compromise earlier this week, he faced a minimum 92 years. In the settlement, he agreed to drop his appeal for a new trial and the court agreed to dismiss six of his charges.

"I can't help but feel guilt for not continuing this fight" he said.

He said it wasn't an easy decision. He hoped his battle would lead to federal law changes, and end medical marijuana-related convictions across the nation.

But under the new settlement, Williams could get his freedom much sooner and be with his family- his number one priority.

"When I get out, the first thing I want to do is go fly fishing with my son" Williams said. "That's what's in my sights right now."

He said he's keeping up hope, and the thought of being able to once again spend quality time with his son brings a smile to his face.

Life in jail, Williams said, has been a huge journey and learning experience.

"I continue to try to make myself better" he said. "Read as much as I can- I've been reading a lot of the classics. And I just continue to do my best."

Williams said he writes to family and friends often, and has received a lot of letters and cards of support that lift his hopes.

But he isn't sure how his sentencing will go, and feels it's very up in the air.

He said he's hoping his case will lead to a national medical marijuana dialogue. Things need to change at a higher level, he said, because state and federal laws can't continue to conflict.

If Williams receives the five-year minimum, he said it's still five years too long for someone who didn't break any state laws.

He hopes the White House petition will cause President Obama to look deeper into medical marijuana in the country. He said he hopes the President will make a decision to grant amnesty to all who are convicted on medical marijuana-related charges, and put his foot down in stopping future raids and charges.

"My hope is that my case can highlight some of these things so that President Obama, the Attorney General and our Legislature can change it" he said.

Williams' sentencing was originally scheduled for January 4th, but it's been pushed back to February 1st.