News and Press Releases

Marijuana Activist Sentenced to over Three Years in Prison for Conspiring to Distribute Marijuana and Federal Benefits Fraud

November 23, 2011

Las Vegas, Nev. – Marijuana activist Pierre Werner, also known as Dr. Reefer, has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for his guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and unlawfully collecting about $27,438 in social security disability benefits, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Pierre Werner, 40, of Las Vegas, was sentenced on Monday, November 21, 2011, by U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro, who also imposed a lifetime denial of federal benefits and ordered Werner to pay $27,438 in restitution to the federal government. Werner, who has four prior felony drug convictions, pleaded guilty on June 30, 2011. He was permitted to self-report to federal prison by January 9, 2012.

Werner, his mother Reynalda Barnett, Clyde Barnett, Ron Teston, and Kirsten Krusyna, were originally charged in December 2010 with unlawfully distributing marijuana in Las Vegas through the operation of storefront "medical marijuana" businesses. Reynalda Barnett pleaded guilty to marijuana distribution and was sentenced to four months in prison; Clyde Barnett and Ron Teston pleaded guilty to marijuana distribution and were sentenced to three years of probation; and Kirsten Krusyna pleaded guilty to marijuana possession, and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 9, 2012.

According to Werner's plea agreement, from a time unknown to about September 8, 2010, Werner entered into a conspiracy with the co-defendants to distribute marijuana in return for monetary compensation. The marijuana sales were made through "Dr. Reefer", "LV Fingerprinting/LV Cannabis," and other locations which operated as purported medical marijuana dispensaries providing marijuana in exchange for money. Federal search warrants were executed on September 8, 2010, at the businesses and Werner's residence. Approximately one kilo of marijuana and 210 grams of hash oil were recovered from the residence and 230 grams of marijuana were recovered from the businesses. Werner, who collected social security disability benefits, failed to tell the Social Security Administration that he was earning income from the "Dr. Reefer" business. As a result, Werner received $27,438 in social security disability benefits to which he was not entitled.

The government alleged in all of the cases that at the time when the cases were charged, purported "medical marijuana" dispensaries were being established throughout Nevada with increasing frequency, and that the dispensaries were actually just storefront businesses operating to illegally sell marijuana for profit. Storefront marijuana dispensaries are not recognized under Nevada law, and it is illegal to sell "medical marijuana" in Nevada. The dispensaries frequently seek protection under Nevada law by claiming they are primary caregivers to medical marijuana patients; however, they do not "consistently assume responsibility for the housing, health, or safety" of their customers as a primary caregiver is required to do under state law. The dispensaries also typically acquire the marijuana they sell from third-party vendors, and there is no state law in Nevada that allows for the production and sale of marijuana from third-party vendors to dispensaries. Additionally, dispensaries often claim that they are requiring "donations" rather than compensation in return for marijuana, in an effort to conceal the unlawful nature of their business.

The investigations continue. They are being conducted as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. Specific agencies investigating the cases are the DEA, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and North Las Vegas Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley W. Giles and Kishan Nair are prosecuting the cases on behalf of the United States.

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