Dispensaries owner sentenced to 18 months

SAN DIEGO - A former owner of two medical marijuana dispensaries was sentenced Monday to time already served—more than 18 months behind bars—for money laundering.

Ronnie Chang was facing 77 charges, including conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, when he took a plea deal last October, pleading guilty to a federal money laundering count. The defendant -- who was indicted in 2011 -- ran Club One in San Marcos and Extreme Holistic Care in Wildomar in Riverside County.

Chang's attorney, Michael McCabe, said his client "tried to do the right thing" in setting up the dispensaries but got some bad legal advice and ending up depositing $100,000 in marijuana store proceeds into his mother's account in an attempt to hide the source of the funds.

McCabe said Chang now wants to become a trucker.

"Mr. Chang wants to move on with his life," his attorney said.

Chang, 46, apologized to his mother and U.S. District Judge Michael Anello for his actions.

Recently released Justice Department guidelines do not make marijuana legal under federal law, but signal a shift in how the federal government will respond to growing support for marijuana in some states, including Washington and Colorado.

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