In 2012 a couple of Missouri police officers smelled marijuana and checked out the scene with probable cause. They found an old man and his illegal marijuana farm, and now the man has received what amounts to a life sentence at his age. Considering there is a large push to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri, do you think that if the state does move forward with medical cannabis, that Mr. White will get some clemency from his life sentence?
Cannabis reform has spread like wildfire over the past two decades, with recreational and medical legalization in places like Colorado and California leading the way and major cities like Philadelphia and Chicago decriminalizing minor possession while their state reps continue the country’s fruitless war on drugs. For as much progress has been done, though, police across the country are still making cannabis arrests, and judges continue to hand out jail time for possession of a plant. The latest case of absurd pot prosecutions comes from Springfield, Missouri, where a 77 year-old man was recently sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his grow op.
According to USA Today, Charles Frederick White was arrested in 2012 after undercover officers investigating a separate crime stumbled upon a skunky smell and seemingly out of place security cameras on his rural property lead to a search warrant and 1,700 cannabis plants. Now, with no distribution or trafficking charges brought and five years of court battles, the senior citizen with failing eyesight has finally been sentenced, and will be in prison until he is almost 90 years old.
Attorneys for the defense argued on multiple occasions that Polk County Sheriffs had trespassed without a warrant when they initially stumbled upon White’s property and that White should not face criminal consequences for something that could be considered legal in another U.S. state, but their pleas ultimately fell on deaf ears.
Even considering White’s old age and entirely non-violent history, local, state and federal authorities tried their best to throw the book at the marijuana farmer. In fact, White was only given any semblance of leniency at the very last step of his trial, when the judge appointed to White’s case, Douglas Harpool, expressed dismay about the criminal charges and ordered the most minimal punishment he could, still resulting in a decade behind bars.
Before making the final call, Judge Harpool said he researched any possible ways to lessen White’s mandatory minimum sentence.
Unfortunately, marijuana’s Schedule I status with the federal government allowed for no such leeway, leaving White to spend the twilight of his life rotting in a cell. And while White’s case appears particularly heartless because of his old age, similar arrests continue to take place daily across the country.
White’s case is just one in thousands of examples why continued cannabis reform is necessary in every corner of America.