A federal judge on Tuesday invoked a rarely used rule when giving reduced sentences to a Ventura County, Calif., couple charged with growing marijuana for a West Hollywood medical marijuana club, the Los Angeles Times reports. U.S. district judge A. Howard Matz relied on the "lesser harm" rule--that a defendant may commit a crime to avoid a perceived greater harm--in sentencing Judy Osburn, 50, to one year of probation. She could have received a prison sentence of up to 37 months. Osburn's husband, Lynn, 54, received a one-year prison sentence stemming from weapons charges and one year of probation for the marijuana charge. "You are a principled person," Matz told Judy Osburn at the sentencing hearing. "I don't consider you to be a threat or menace to society. But however salutary your purpose," he added, "the ends do not justify the means."
The couple pleaded guilty in October after the judge ruled that they could not tell a jury during a trial that they were growing marijuana for medicinal purposes and with the support of West Hollywood city officials and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. California voters approved a ballot measure legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996.
Judy Osburn was a director of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, which dispensed marijuana to about 960 people, who used the drug to treat symptoms of AIDS or cancer or to counter nausea caused by medications to treat the diseases. Agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in October 2001 raided the club and shut it down. Federal officials plan to appeal the probation sentences given to the Osburns.