Longtime Portland marijuana activist Paul Stanford today pleaded guilty in Marion County Circuit Court to one count of Oregon personal income-tax evasion. Stanford agreed to a sentence of 18 months' probation and 160 hours of community service.
The charge stems from Stanford's failure to file a 2009 tax return. He was also accused of failing to file his 2008 return when he was indicted earlier this year.
Stanford, who operates a nationwide chain of medical-marijuana clinics, has long been a controversial figure in local cannabis circles. A 2007 WW profile noted Stanford's long-standing troubles with the IRS.
In interviews with WW following Stanford's arrest in March, Stanford and his certified public accountant claim Stanford was cooperating with authorities in the months leading up to his arrest. Both Stanford and the accountant, Paul Henry, say that authorities understood Stanford faced difficulties due to an alleged theft of years' worth of his clinics financial records.
Stanford was on the verge of filing his tax returns, and authorities knew it, say Stanford and his accountant. But in January this year, they say, the Oregon Department of Justice suddenly grew hostile toward them for reasons unknown.
Stanford said he suspected his arrest was political payback for his years of organizing for cannabis legalization in Oregon. Attorney General John Kroger has said publicly he opposes legalizing marijuana.
"I think the fact that he pleaded guilty dispels any notion about the legitimacy of this case," DOJ spokesman Tony Green told WW today.
Stanford tells WW he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid further hassle and expense. He says he still believes he was persecuted by the DOJ for his political beliefs—and he's still working to qualify a legalization measure for the 2012 ballot.