Article – The Dallas Morning News: They were licensed to sell marijuana; now they face years in federal prison

Another story from the front. He seems remarkably sanguine considering his predicament.

Two men started legal marijuana businesses in Oklahoma, but were caught with pot in North Texas. Now they’re behind bars, charged with being drug traffickers due to inconsistent laws and enforcement.

They’re considered licensed small-business owners in one state and accused drug traffickers in another, just across the border.

Don Pirtle and Justin Machacek both learned the hard way about the nation’s capricious patchwork of marijuana laws in which Texas, where marijuana is illegal, is surrounded by states that have legalized it for medical treatment.

The two men are facing felony drug trafficking charges in North Texas federal court despite having state licenses to grow and process marijuana in Oklahoma. Both men are facing multiple years behind bars because of their enterprising spirit.

The lack of consistency in marijuana laws across the nation has created disparate legal outcomes for people involved in practically the same conduct. The Justice Department has said it will not enforce federal marijuana laws against people and companies in states that have legalized the drug for the medical or recreational use of cannabis.

Critics say that creates a system of unequal justice.

Olivia Naugle, legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington D.C. nonprofit advocacy group, said Texas remains one of 14 states with no effective medical cannabis law. And that leads to situations in which Pirtle and Machacek now find themselves, she said

“This is yet another devastating consequence of the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” Naugle said. “Arresting adults for cannabis offenses is a massive waste of law enforcement officials’ time and resources, and it does nothing to improve public health or safety.”

Pirtle grew up in a tough neighborhood in southern Oklahoma that forced him to “adopt a hustle” to survive, according to an online biography. Machacek went to Rockwall high, studied business at Southern Methodist University, and became active in state Republican politics.

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