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Letters keep pot grower out of prison

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

DETROIT — A southeastern Michigan farmer recovering from throat cancer was sentenced to probation instead of prison on Tuesday for growing thousands of marijuana plants, partly because of many handwritten letters from supporters who described him as a modest, selfless man who helps others at every turn.

“This is one that most screams out: This man deserves a break,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said.

Edwin Schmieding, 61, was caught growing 8,000 marijuana plants at his Lenawee County farm and greenhouse in 2011. His wife told police that they were trying to tap the state's medical marijuana market, although production that large is illegal.

Schmieding's attorney, Sanford Schulman, noted that most plants were small and of low quality.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Schmieding told the judge as relatives wept in the courtroom gallery. “I've lived a hard-working life. I give you my word: I'll be a responsible citizen.”

Schmieding began growing marijuana in 2010 after years of growing cut flowers and other plants. He and wife Linda lived in a home built with their own hands and warmed by firewood during winter.

Friedman was influenced by letters from relatives and friends, even Schmieding's former wife, in the rural area. A neighbor said Schmieding regularly lent tools and helped him pour concrete. Family members said they were inspired by his modesty and independence as well as his courage during cancer treatments.

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