A former University of Montana Grizzly quarterback and graduate with degrees in sociology and business management, Jason Washington has lived in the Bay Area for the past two years after being released from federal prison in 2014. Washington served 17 months of a 24-month sentence on federal medical marijuana charges and is the second person in U.S. history to take the feds to a jury trial proceeding on a state-licensed medical marijuana case.
Washington’s is an unjust story of an individual caught in the crosshairs of federal versus state law, an issue the cannabis community is acutely familiar with. His case gives a face to federal meddling in state affairs, later deemed unjust by the Supreme Court, who has kept the DEA out of medical dispensaries across the country for the past four years.
In November 2011, federal law enforcement raided Washington’s medical marijuana business, Big Sky Heath, the largest in Montana (which first legalized medical marijuana in 2004). Eighteen months of proceedings passed and Washington’s weeklong trial ended. He was found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Judge Dana Christensen departed from the mandatory minimum sentence guidelines of 10 years and sentenced Washington to a two-year term in federal prison.
Washington wound up spending much of his term on the road. While incarcerated, he was bounced around eight facilities, a phenomenon known as “diesel therapy.” In October 2014, Judge Christensen reduced the original sentence from 24 to 21 months, ordered Washington’s immediate release from custody, while simultaneously recommending that prosecution “move on.”
Though Washington served his time in a federal facility in Southern California, he requested a discharge back to Montana. “Being close to my son was my number one priority,” he explains, “so I chose a halfway house in Montana over California. I had already missed too much of his life. I was taken into custody at time of sentencing, which was two weeks before my son’s first birthday.”
Washington returned to work in cannabis and continues to thrive in the industry that cost him a chunk of his life. Washington’s current cannabis business venture is in mergers and acquisitions with Green Axis Capital, where he serves as director of operations and works alongside reputable professionals in the cannabis space, including Matthew Morgan, former CEO of Reef Dispensaries.