The City of Detroit licensed Rudi Gammo to operate a medical marijuana dispensary. But an overzealous prosecutor and vertical integration (stores only sell cannabis they grow themselves and handle entirely in-house from “seed to sale”) have Gammo serving a 5 ½ year prison sentence.
Among the first to be licensed to operate a medical cannabis dispensary, Rudi Gammo only sold to those with state-issued medical cannabis cards. The cannabis he grew nearby was on his shelves. Vertical integration is meant to make it easier for regulators, including law enforcement, to keep tabs on the industry. At the time, Michigan’s medical cannabis law forbade Gammo’s vertical integration.
According to Gammo’s attorney, and other industry sources, this was a standard operating procedure. Even though Gammo had a license to sell cannabis and the state allowed caregivers to grow it, he was in violation.
“We never had problems with the authorities until the police came to our house at five in the morning,” Rudi’s wife Vida Gammo says. “Rudi had a license from the city, so we didn’t think that could ever happen.”
“Rudi Gammo was convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses when marijuana was still criminalized in Michigan. Marijuana offenses have been decriminalized in this state since 2019, so Rudi’s continued imprisonment is the epitome of injustice,” said Gammo’s attorney, Barton Morris. “Had he committed the same offenses today, he could not have been given a prison sentence. So it’s past time for Rudi and others in a similar situation to be free from the criminal justice system.”
“His motivation was helping people, and he did, without creating any problems. Unfortunately, I think he’s being unfairly targeted in this case because he’s had a criminal record in the past,” Vida says. “He’s been incarcerated before, but that also means he’s paid for whatever he did when he was young. Meanwhile, the crimes he’s incarcerated for now are victimless crimes that aren’t even crimes anymore.”
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald is an unexpected ally for Rudi Gammo in the attempt to overturn the unjust sentence. McDonald added her name to a motion requesting the court set aside Gammo’s guilty pleas and/or re-sentence him and clearly thinks the prison time Rudi Gammo has already served more than fits the crime. She has written:
“As defendant correctly notes in his brief, the conduct for which defendant is incarcerated has been decriminalized. Given that, given the time defendant has already served, and given the hardship continued incarceration will work on defendant in light of his family and health circumstances, the people concur in defendant’s request for relief.”
McDonald’s predecessor, former prosecutor Jessica Cooper, handled the original case against Rudi Gammo. Cooper also treated Gammo like a drug lord instead of a city-licensed medical cannabis supplier by adding a conspiracy charge to each of the seven felony charges she brought against him. To avoid sentencing targeted more toward street gangs and organized crime, Rudi Gammo pled guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Surprisingly, the motion from the Gammo family, with McDonald concurring, was denied — surprising given the prosecutor’s stated position in favor of release.
As a last attempt appeal, Gammo’s legal team will file a motion for reconsideration. Failing that, all that remains would be a pardon from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
On Wednesday, Sept. 1, Gammo’s attorney, family, friends, and supporters will gather at 10 a.m. at the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac, MI, to call for his immediate release and the dropping of all charges against him. The rally is being organized by Last Prisoner Project.