Last January, private pilot Carl Gruber took off from a California airport headed for Boulder with 55 pounds of marijuana loaded into his tiny plane. But instead of friendly co-smugglers waiting for Gruber at the Boulder County Airport, the Boulder County Drug Task Force and agents from the Department of Homeland Security were there to greet him and his payload.
His excuse? According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Gruber was flying the herb in to Colorado for a medical marijuana dispensary -- something he reported knew wasn't legal but didn't think was a big deal.
Now, we aren't saying there are no shady dispensaries out there still buying herb from out of state. But apparently, Gruber -- a California resident -- didn't read our medical marijuana laws, which require all medicine to be grown by Colorado dispensaries, before using it an an excuse. Accordingly, the judge didn't buy this reasoning when handing Gruber a $10,000 fine and two years' probation.
"I think you were dealing," Boulder District Judge Thomas Mulvahill said at the trial, according to the Daily Camera. "I'm not convinced this was a benevolent transfer of medical marijuana to Colorado. I hear that explanation and my eyebrows go way up."
Gruber is said to be "destitute" -- unable to work as a professional pilot, since his plane was seized by Homeland Security. As we reported back in January, Gruber is an experienced pilot who races biplanes in his spare time. Below is a photo of Gruber on a more legal flight in 2005.
Since his arrest, Gruber said he had to sell his home and now lives in a trailer in California. Due to his lack of finances, Gruber's fine was reduced from $25,000 to $10,000. Prosecutors based the original fine on the estimated $165,000 ($3K per pound) value of the cannabis he was transporting.
As for his lack of jail time, Gruber was initially charged with possession of between five and one hundred pounds of herb, but that was pleaded down to a felony distribution charge for less than five pounds. Prosecutor Karen Peters said that because Gruber didn't appear to be using any of the marijuana himself, prosecutors decided to focus on punishing him monetarily. He'll also be on probation for the next two years, with the judge allowing him to serve in California.
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"From my understanding of the pre-sentence investigation, he's not an addict -- he's more of a businessman," Peters told the Daily Camera. "I think the focus should be on taking away the profit."
In other words, if you're using marijuana, you're a criminal deserving of jail time. If you're merely providing that marijuana, you're just a shady businessman. Note: the original version of this story incorrectly listed Karen Peters as a federal prosecutor. It has since been changed.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Is Denver adding charges to keep minor pot cases alive after Amendment 64?" and "Stoner MacGyver marijuana product review: Puffit personal vaporizer by Discreet Vape."