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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pot shop owners sentenced

Medical marijuana dispensary raided by feds

Two men, including one who sought help from singer Willie Nelson, were sentenced in federal court Thursday after pleading guilty to charges stemming from federal raids that shut down more than 40 medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane.

Dennis L. Whited and Jerry W. Laberdee, former owners of Medical Herb Providers, both pleaded guilty to charges of distribution of marijuana and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Laberdee to six months and Whited to five months in federal prison, defense attorney Doug Phelps said. As part of the deal, other felony counts were dismissed.

“I don’t think there were any allegations that they sold to anybody but medical marijuana patients,” said Phelps, who noted that federal authorities have not prosecuted similar cases west of the Cascades. “None of that happened on the West Side. It’s crazy.”

Whited and Laberdee were arrested during a sweep of dispensaries after federal officials sent letters to the landlords of those businesses, indicating that they could lose their property if the activities continued.

The arrests came more than a year before voters approved Initiative 502, which allows people 21 and older to possess an ounce or less of marijuana.

Whited previously said that he began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009.

Laberdee, who pleaded guilty, backed out and then agreed to proceed, has a daughter who wrote to country music legend Willie Nelson for help.

Nelson, who has a concert scheduled for next week in Northridge, Calif., did not testify Thursday.

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