ST. CHARLES – Only days after the state of Illinois voted to legalize marijuana on a recreational level, a local cancer patient is going to prison for possession of THC-laced chocolates that the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office allege he was trying to sell.
Thomas J. Franzen, 37, of the 900 block of Harmony Drive in Montgomery, was sentenced May 30 to four years in jail after pleading guilty in a Kane County courtroom to a reduced charge of possession of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis. He received a package containing more than 40 pounds of the marijuana-infused candy through the U.S. Postal Service more than five years ago, according to court documents.
Franzen was charged in February 2014 with possession of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis, in addition to the dropped charges of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a substance containing cocaine and the most serious charge, trafficking more than 5,000 grams of cannabis, which carries a minimum 12 year prison sentence.
According to a press release from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, Kane County prosecutors stated in court that U.S. Postal workers, having noticed a pattern of suspicious parcels being delivered to Franzen, obtained a search warrant and opened a package sent from a California address that was addressed to Franzen.
They found more than 19,000 grams of chocolate infused with THC. Authorities served a search warrant at Franzen’s home and inside his bedroom they found cocaine, more than 100 additional grams of marijuana, along with items that are known to be evidence of drug dealing, including a digital scale, more than $2,000 in cash, ledgers used to track drug sales, materials used for drug packaging and numerous postal receipts for parcels he had mailed to locations across the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, authorities found cannabis hash oil and other drug paraphernalia.
In the press release, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon stated: “In recognition of the seriousness of Mr. Franzen’s medical condition, our office reduced a 12-year mandatory minimum sentence to four years, of which he is required to serve only 2 years. We did this in spite of evidence that proves that Mr. Franzen is a drug dealer.
“Evidence from state and federal investigators shows that he has purchased and sold marijuana products across North America. In addition to the evidence found in his home, we also have evidence that he had received multiple packages that raised the suspicion of postal inspectors prior to his receiving the package that led to his arrest.
“As he delayed this prosecution for more than five years asserting that his medical condition was preventing him from sitting through a trial and from serving a term in prison, we asked for but never received independent verification that this was true. In fact, Mr. Franzen’s own physician stated that Franzen’s medical condition would not prevent him from sitting through his trial. Mr. Franzen’s lawyer also presented no evidence that Mr. Franzen had sought to legally purchase marijuana for medicinal purposes after Illinois’ medical marijuana law took effect.
“The marijuana-laced product found at Mr. Franzen’s home was not purchased from a medical marijuana business, and the amount he purchased far exceeds what would be used for personal consumption and is evidence that he is a drug dealer.”
Franzen’s attorney, David Camic said that he “did not believe” that Franzen had a medical marijuana card, and despite the state’s recent ruling, he said that even if it had been in effect when Franzen was arrested, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
“I wish the new legalization law applied to this case,” he said. “From my understanding, [the new law] is for personal use only. His problem is that edibles have a large mass, especially chocolates. And even with legalization, I don’t believe you can import cannabis without authorization.”
Camic said the judge, Clint Hull, had been “very kind” when sentencing Franzen.
“[Franzen] is expected to serve less than half of the sentence,” Camic said. “We’d hoped to convince the prosecution to give him probation. The judge was cognizant of his health and wanted to give him some sort of break, but 40 pounds of cannabis is a lot.”
Camic said that Hull allowed Franzen a two week stay to undergo testing to determine if he is healthy enough to begin serving his term. Franzen’s next court date is June 14.
“The judge wants to make sure the sentence will not be horribly adverse to [Franzen’s] health, as he will not receive the same level of care in prison that he’s currently receiving,” he said. “[Hull] wanted to make sure that he doesn’t have ongoing treatment needs as he starts his sentence.”