BLOOMINGTON — A Chicago man who lost an argument in court Thursday that Illinois’ most serious marijuana possession laws are unconstitutional was sentenced to 12 years in prison for possessing about 30 pounds of the drug.
Ryan Yoselowitz, 28, pleaded guilty in October to possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, a Class X felony that carries a sentence of six to 30 years in prison. Yoselowitz initially fled a traffic stop in May on Interstate 55. When he was apprehended, police found 20 pounds of marijuana in glass jars in his car.
Yoselowitz’s lawyer, Steven Muslin, filed a motion in January to declare sentencing rules unconstitutional based upon a shift in public sentiment about the legalization of marijuana and the lack of harm caused by the substance.
Defense witness Dr. Christopher Fichtner, who is a former director of mental health for the Illinois Department of Human Services, testified that “the problem of marijuana abuse is greatly exaggerated.” The psychiatrist who works at a California clinic admitted that delivery of more than 20 pounds of marijuana in a community could be harmful.
The Illinois attorney general’s office and local prosecutors opposed the defense arguments that the prison term for high-end marijuana possession is in the same category as serious violent crimes.
In denying the defense motion, Judge Robert Freitag said “this is an ongoing public debate” and an issue “the Legislature and not the court should decide.”
Yoselowitz’s lifestyle was the focus of police testimony offered before the sentencing decision.
“It was the most extravagant place I’ve ever executed a search warrant in my career,” said Illinois State Police Sgt. Earl Candler.
In the Chicago apartment the defendant rented for $2,800, police found a 60-inch television and expensive furniture along with about 13 pounds of marijuana and a small amount of cocaine.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve illustrated Yoselowitz’s drug business with a chart showing several customers — including one who owed the Chicago man more than $250,000.
Horve asked for a 24-year sentence, calling Yoselowitz a large-scale marijuana dealer who was “living large.”
Muslin sought a sentence closer to the six-year minimum. He said the failure of a currency exchange business owned by his client’s mother was one of the reasons Yoselowitz became involved in the drug trade.
In remarks he offered to Freitag before the sentence, Yoselowitz acknowledged he had made a mistake.
“I can safely say I’ve learned that what I did was wrong. It’s not so much that I sold weed, it’s that I broke the law,” said Yoselowitz.
Freitag denied a defense request to allow Yoselowitz to remain free on $75,000 bond pending an appeal.