A Stowe man, who federal authorities say was caught with about 272 pounds of marijuana near the U.S.-Canadian border, has avoided going to federal prison for his part in an illegal drug smuggling operation in the Northeast Kingdom.

Jack M. Cohen, 36, was part of a drug trafficking organization “that arranged the importation of marijuana from Canada and distributed it in Vermont and nearby states,” according to a prosecutor in court papers. He wrote Cohen worked with at least three others in the exportation and distribution until he was busted in March.

Prosecutors suggested a prison term somewhere between 46 and 57 months, based on federal sentencing guidelines. The defense sought a time-served sentence.

Assistant federal defender Steven Barth said he believed Cohen played a minor role in the smuggling operation as a courier and that it did not involve more serious drugs. He also argued Cohen was being sentenced amid the COVID-19 pandemic and suffers from obesity that puts him at greater risk.

Cohen was involved in the smuggling operation since at least fall 2020 and intelligence collected by the U.S. Border Patrol showed he had made at least six trips to the border between Jan. 1 and March 24 when arrested, assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Lasher said.

Cohen handed over the money to his associates and they provided him the drugs during the trips, Lasher said.

After hearing arguments on Friday, U.S. district court judge Christina Reiss placed Cohen on federal supervised release for the next three years. Three years was the minimum supervision allowed.

Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in August to a charge of knowingly and intentionally importing more than 50 kilograms of marijuana March 24 when intercepted in Canaan by the border patrol.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped a second felony drug charge and agreed not to pursue other known crimes covering importation, possession or distribution of marijuana — including conspiracy to commit those crimes — between January 2020 and March 24.

Prosecutors also agreed not to seek forfeiture of his 2008 Chevy Silverado used in the smuggling crime and gave him credit for acceptance of responsibility.

While Cohen was caught with 272 pounds of marijuana during a March smuggling effort, the U.S. Probation Officer in its presentence report attempted to show that his importation was considerably higher.

Cohen received letters of support in court from the community, including Chris and Beth Oleks, who said they have lived in Stowe for five years, known Cohen for three years and believe he is “a solid member of our community.”

His mother, Laurie Moore, said Cohen had a background as an electrician’s assistant and later in forestry overseeing a 100-acre site.

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