Jeffre and Alice Sanderson
Sanderson and Weigand

In 2006, Jeffre Sanderson, Alice Wiegand and their baby son, Jaime, were living peacefully in northern Californias rural Plumas County. In the backyard of their home, along a steep, wooded canyon, was a large organic vegetable garden. Among other things, the garden contained about 64 marijuana plants that the couple said they grew for medical and spiritual purposes. That summer, when sheriffs deputies executed a search warrant on their house and found marijuana clones being produced in their basement as well, the local district attorney refused to prosecute the case. Why? Because the garden supplied ten local patients whose doctors had recommended their use of marijuana under Californias then decade-old Compassionate Use Act.

Unfortunately, the federal government did not recognize Californias medical marijuana laws, and soon the U.S. Attorneys office arrested Sanderson and Wiegand, charging them for growing the plants in violation of federal law. During the ensuing turmoil, the couples baby son, Jaime, was placed with Child Protective Services. Jeffre and Alice temporarily reclaimed Jaime after being bailed out; soon after they also gave birth to a second son, Jahson. But the following year, when Jeffre was again arrested for cultivating a new crop of marijuana, both children were taken from the couple in October 2007 and placed in CPS. In November, a federal judge ruled against Jeffre, and the couple was forced to make a plea deal in which they forfeited their home and farm. Jeffre pled guilty to cultivating less than 80 kilograms of marijuana. Alice pled guilty to conspiracy to cultivate.

In April 2008, Jeffre was sentenced to 18 months in prison; Alice to 6 months. In a small gesture of decency, the judge allowed the couple to serve staggered sentences so they could regain custody of their children. Jeffre was released after 18 months in four separate facilities. On July 13, 2009, Alice was forced to once again leave her children, as well as her newly released husband, to serve six months at a Dublin, California prison, where she currently resides.

(Photo by Vanessa Nelson courtesy of

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