Published on:

Medical Marijuana Caregiver Dies in Federal Custody

Last Friday, OSU law professor Doug Berman’s always excellent Sentencing Law and Policy blog included a post concerning Montana medical marijuana activist Tom Daubert being sentenced to a term of probation. The post brought to mind a recent, sad story about the death of Richard Flor, Montana’s first registered medical marijuana caregiver, while in federal custody. As the Great Falls Tribune reported:

Richard Flor, a former Miles City medical marijuana caregiver sentenced in April to five years in federal prison on charges that he illegally maintained drug-related premises, died in federal custody Wednesday.
Flor, who suffered from a lengthy list of serious medical conditions, died in a Las Vegas hospital a day after suffering two heart attacks while awaiting transport to a federal medical facility, according to his attorney, Brad Arndorfer of Billings.
At Flor’s sentencing last April, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell recommended that he “be designated for incarceration at a federal medical center” where Flor’s “numerous physical and mental diseases and conditions can be evaluated and treated.”
Arndorfer said that never happened, and instead Flor was for months housed at the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby until a week ago, when U.S. marshals began the process of transporting him to an unknown medical facility. Arndorfer said Flor was in Las Vegas as a layover, but he did not know where his client was being taken.
“It’s incredible to me to take a man with dementia, failing kidneys, severe diabetes and unable to care for himself and incarcerate him,” Arndorfer said Thursday. “He required nursing home care, and as far as I can tell he didn’t receive any care while he was incarcerated in Shelby. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”[…]
Last month, Arndorfer filed a motion requesting the court release Flor pending an appeal of his sentence due to health concerns. Arndorfer’s brief supporting the motion detailed how Flor suffered from severe osteoporosis and on multiple occasions while in custody, Flor had fallen out of bed breaking his ribs, his clavicle and his cervical bones as well as injuring vertebrae in his spine. Flor also suffered from dementia, diabetes and kidney failure among other ailments, Arndorfer said.
“He is in extreme pain and still is not being given round-the-clock care as is required for someone with his medical and mental conditions,” Arndorfer wrote in his brief to the court. “It is anticipated he will not long survive general population incarceration.”
In his Aug. 7 order denying the motion, Lovell wrote that it was unfortunate the Flor had not yet been transferred to an appropriate medical facility but that the concerns detailed in the motion were “not factually or legally significant.”
Lovell wrote that the federal Bureau of Prisons could provide the necessary medical care and that recent tests found kidney dialysis wasn’t needed, despite the fact that a year earlier a VA health care provider discussed with Flor the possibility that he might need dialysis in the future.
Lovell wrote that “defendant has no such present need.”[…]
Kristin Flor said her father had complained to her regularly that his kidneys and back were hurting him and that he wasn’t receiving proper medical treatment while incarcerated in Shelby.
“They didn’t give him any of the medical attention he needed, and they never took him once to a medical doctor,” Kristin Flor said. “When he broke his clavicle and shoulder blade it took him two days to get doctors to look at it.”
In a written statement, Crossroads spokesman Steven Owen offered: “Our dedicated, professional corrections and medical staff at Crossroads are firmly committed to the health and safety of the inmates entrusted to our care; we meet or exceed the rigorous and comprehensive standards of our government partners, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Montana Department of Corrections, as well as those of the independent American Correctional Association.”
Absent from the media coverage is insight into why the Court did not permit Flor to voluntarily surrender to his designated facility, which would have enabled continuing care in the community until he reported while avoiding the hardships of “diesel therapy.”