Pierre Werner's days as a marijuana activist are over.
"Someone else has got to carry on the fight now that me and my whole family are convicted felons," he said.
On Thursday, Werner and other members of his family resolved their federal case by pleading guilty to felonies.
Werner was one of 14 people, including his mother and brother, arrested Jan. 6 in connection with marijuana sales at Las Vegas dispensaries.
He joined his mother, Reynalda Barnett, and younger brother, Clyde Barnett, in pleading guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana.
Werner, 39, also pleaded guilty to one count of failure to disclose information affecting Social Security benefits.
U.S. District Judge Philip Pro is scheduled to sentence the defendants Oct. 18.
The arrests followed the September raids of several Las Vegas dispensaries, including Dr. Reefer, a business operated by Reynalda and Clyde Barnett at 8975 S. Pecos Road. Clark County suspended Dr. Reefer's business license in November.
Storefront marijuana dispensaries are not recognized under Nevada's Medical Marijuana Act, the U.S. attorney's office has said, and it is illegal to sell medical marijuana in Nevada. Medical marijuana patients and caregivers in the state must grow their own.
Under the plea agreements, Reynalda Barnett, 60, and Clyde Barnett, 22, have a chance to receive probation. Werner is free on bond, but because of his prior record, he is expecting to return to prison after Pro sentences him.
"Basically everyone's going to get probation except for me," he said.
Werner has served two stints in prison for possession of marijuana with the intent to sell. After he finished his second sentence in 2008, he launched a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado, where it is legal to sell the drug to patients with chronic ailments.
But after Colorado passed a law forbidding felons from owning a dispensary, Werner returned to Las Vegas, where his involvement with marijuana has made headlines since 2004.
Werner testified about medical marijuana in March 2009 during a legislative hearing in Carson City.
"It is ridiculous to expect people on chemotherapy to grow their own medicine," he said at the hearing. "We need a system where they can buy it. Charge a $50 per ounce tax, and it would bring in millions for Nevada."
According to federal court records, an undercover detective went to Dr. Reefer on Aug. 5 last year and was greeted by Clyde Barnett and Werner. Werner told the detective that he was taking over the business from his mother.
On Thursday, Werner said he and his mother each owned 50 percent of a referral company that helped people obtain their medical marijuana licenses. "And then my mom brought in the dispensary," he said.
According to his plea agreement, Werner failed to disclose his business activities at Dr. Reefer to the Social Security Administration, "knowing that such activity would affect his right to receive" benefits. He admitted receiving about $21,000 in benefits "to which he was not entitled."
Werner said his mother ran the dispensary for less than a month.
"I shut it down," he said. "I wasn't going to work there unless there was no marijuana being sold out of there."
When Pro asked Reynalda Barnett whether she knew she was distributing marijuana unlawfully, she sighed and said, "Well, there were 45 dispensaries in Nevada."
She said the other dispensaries had been operating for months, and "I thought that this was acceptable."
When the judge probed further, Reynalda Barnett admitted she knew her actions were illegal.
After a U.S. Pretrial Services official expressed concern that the woman has been suffering from depression, Pro ordered her to undergo a mental health assessment.
Her lawyer, Osvaldo Fumo, did not object to the requirement.
"She's just extremely remorseful, extremely depressed over what she's done," he explained.
Fumo said his client has been consumed with guilt and blames herself for the criminal charges against her sons.
Werner said about 13 medical marijuana dispensaries continue to operate in the area. His attorney, Michael Kimbrell, had one piece of advice for their operators on Thursday: Close up shop.
"They're just a bust waiting to happen," Kimbrell said.
For now, Werner is living with his mother. In the future, there will be no more trips to Carson City to testify before the Legislature, no more dispensaries, no more consulting.
"It's time for someone else to pick up the fight," he said. "I've given it everything and so has my family."
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.