In the fall of 2010, Jonathan Janetski, a 43-year-old father of two, sought to sell the building his family owns at 115 East Reserve Drive in Kalispell, near the Wendy's and Magic Diamond Casino, so he could afford a heart operation, his attorney says. The building has a specialized ventilation system, which appealed to a couple of medical marijuana providers. Janetski, a contractor, was reluctant to lease to them, but did so after reviewing U.S. Department of Justice memos that suggested that federal prosecutors wouldn't pursue individuals in compliance with state marijuana laws. He thought his tenants would eventually buy the building.
A few months later, in February 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the University of Montana, reiterating what was stated in the memos.
And then on March 14, 2011, federal agents raided Janetski's building, confiscating 718 marijuana plants grown by his tenants, Michael Kassner and Tyler Roe. The two providers were charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. Janetski was, too.
Kassner and Roe were sentenced to about a year in prison after pleading guilty to the conspiracy charge.
Late last year, Janetski also pled guilty, to "maintaining drug-involved premises," which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years. He'll be sentenced on April 19. His attorney, Todd Glazier, expects Janetski to get about three years.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy didn't allow Montana's medical marijuana law to be used as a defense. "It doesn't make sense," Glazier says, "that the United States attorney is able to come to Montana and say we're not going to prosecute and then his underlings turn around and say, 'We're not...even going to give you a chance to introduce that defense.' So we were screwed. Jon had no choice but to go ahead and take the offer, because he was either looking at the three years or 10 years under the mandatory minimum."
Glazier believes Janetski is the first landlord snared by the federal raids of Montana medical marijuana businesses last year. His case appears to significantly widen the circle of prosecutions, not just to the hundreds of landlords around the state who rented space to providers for dispensaries and grow houses, but also, potentially, to anyone with an indirect business relationship with them, such as banks that held their money or newspapers that ran their ads.