Who is the first commercial landlord in the United States to be incarcerated for leasing to a medical marijuana business? The answer may be fun for real estate professionals to try recalling, but for the person who will spend a year in jail, it’s no joke.
Mr. Jonathan Janetski, a commercial landlord, on January 4, 2012, pled guilty to knowingly and intentionally leasing his building for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing and distributing marijuana – violating 21 U.S.C. Section 856(a) (2). Janetski, the first commercial building landlord incarcerated for leasing to a medical marijuana tenant, was sentenced on May 21, 2012, to twelve months and one day in prison, followed by 3 years of probation by the U.S. District Court. Janetski rented his Kalispell building to two or three men for a cultivation site; according to his criminal attorney, Janetski “contacted an attorney first and asked if what was proposed to him by Kassner and Roe was legal under state law, which was confirmed.” The United States District Court in Montana granted the United States’ motion to bar Janetski from presenting evidence about his behalf that he relied on the advice of counsel in concluding his conduct was lawful per federal law.
The idea that Janetski got any sober legal advice on the wisdom of the lease here is frightening. There’s no basis for any such alleged advice under applicable Montana statutes. Montana has a “caregiver,” non-profit distribution model, where the maximum number of persons who can be served by “home grown” Cannabis is three – and then, only when the grower is individually certified as a patient. 115 Reserve Drive, Kalispell, Flathead County, is a six thousand square foot warehouse from which, on March 14, 2011, federal agents confiscated 718 marijuana plants grown by tenants Messrs. Kassner and Roe, already in prison. Janetski’s indictment recites, among other offenses, that Janetski abetted cultivation of more than 100 Cannabis plants. That number of plants augments the prison term under federal sentencing guidelines.
Criminal law and civil forfeiture law is not the usual province of real estate lawyers. It requires some study and thought – not reading a couple of blog posts.
Representing a proposed landlord in a medical marijuana lease transaction is crazy for the property lawyer who lacks basic understanding of applicable federal and state law in this one-of-a-kind leasing transaction.