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      Michigan farmer with pot plants gets probation

      A southeastern Michigan farmer caught growing thousands of marijuana plants has been spared prison and placed on probation by a compassionate judge who says the case "screams out" for leniency.

      Edwin Schmieding was arrested two years ago after authorities found marijuana growing in his Lenawee County fields and greenhouse. His wife told police that they were trying to tap the state's medical marijuana market.

      But many plants were small and of low quality. Detroit federal Judge Bernard Friedman also was influenced Tuesday by letters from relatives and friends who said Schmieding was a selfless man who helped others at every turn.

      Schmieding took responsibility for his crime but asked the judge for mercy. The 61-year-old is recovering from throat cancer and needs a medical procedure every three to four months.