The owner of several Texas trucking companies could end up in federal prison for the second half of his life thanks to his conviction related to marijuana possession and distribution.
Earlier this month, David Lopez, 56, was sentenced to more than 24 years for what prosecutors described as a multi-state marijuana distribution operation that ran for more than a decade.
Lopez was arrested after he hired a narcotics officer and federal drug agency informant, who were working undercover at his trucking firms.
According to evidence presented at his trial, the operation involved the use of Lopez’s trucking companies from 2001 to 2015 in the shipping and distribution of marijuana in Texas, New Mexico and Kansas.
Authorities linked several pot busts over those years, with a street value of over $60 million, to Lopez’s distribution network.
A statement from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the sentence would deliver “a strong and unified message that drug dealing, at all levels, would not be tolerated.”
The statement also mentioned the sentence would “make our communities safer,” despite Lopez having no record of violent offenses.
The strong sentence stems largely from statutes citing mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug offenses.
Legal experts speculate the new administration, including a new attorney general, are pursuing more aggressive sentences against suspects in non-violent marijuana possession cases; however, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the Associated Press the mission of federal prosecutors is “not about filling prisons.”
That said, if Lopez serves his full sentence, he will be nearly 80 years old upon his release. This sentence would place him in a group of “marijuana lifers,” which are inmates who are serving either life sentences or “de facto life” sentences for charges related to marijuana offenses.