If you’re on the ‘no’ side of the fence when it comes to supporting marijuana reform, think again. Punishments for marijuana possession seldom fit the offense for a harmless, nonviolent drug and these imprisonment cases definitely do not fit the crime.
Here are 5 of the craziest sentences for possession, or as we call them, 5 cases calling for marijuana reform ASAP.
This story—covered by Salon—highlights the worst possible outcome to being charged for a medical marijuana possession. Jonathan Magbie has been paralyzed from the neck down since he was four years old after being hit by a drunk driver. Now he requires 20 hours of medical assistance a day. In 2004, Magbie was riding passenger in a car when cops stopped him and the driver, finding a joint and loaded gun in the vehicle. Although Magbie was never convicted of a criminal offense, he was sentenced to spend 10 days in jail, without the proper medical assistance he needed. He died four days into his sentence.
In 1994, after drug squads found 80 pounds of marijuana in her home in Tucson, Arizona, Elaine Prince-Praton faced her second conviction for marijuana possession after violating her four-year probation. She was sentenced 25 years, which is the same sentence often handed out to first-degree murderers. Prince-Praton was offered a plea deal if she admitted her guilt, but she refused as she claims the marijuana belonged to her son. Authorities did not have a search warrant.
The Avery Family
Salon reports of the troubling case of the Avery family, which is now considered a “continuing criminal enterprise.” Police raided the family’s 50-acre property in 1994 and found over twelve hundred marijuana plants underground. Police used two family acquaintances—son-in-law Ricky Daniels and friend David Tapley—to testify against the family, including wheelchair bound patriarch John, Daniels’ own wife Michele, the deceased Avery son, and his daughter Sheri. Daniels and Tapley received five and two years, respectively, while the Avery family received far more: John is serving 58 years, Michele is serving 10 and Sheri is serving six years. They have maintained that they have no knowledge of the marijuana and that it must have belonged to their deceased family member.
Drug Policy reports on this troubling case of treating a drug addict with more time in prison than many other criminals’ receive. Son of actor and celebrity Michael Douglas, Cameron struggled with drug abuse since the age of 13. After pleading guilty to a drug ring in 2010, he was sentenced to 5 years in a federal prison; there, he was not given any drug treatment. After relapsing on drugs in prison, he was placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for 11 months without social visits from friends and family. The federal courts became involved again by adding an additional 54 months to his sentence. His lawyers have filed for an appeal. Health experts have claimed that this treatment is inhumane.
The Young Family
A case of power and elitism brought down the Young family in the 1980s. According to this Salon story, Living in small-town Alabama with plenty of land to their name, the Young family had the misfortune of owning property near their neighbor, wealthy businessman J.P. Altmire. Altmire wanted their property and when they refused to sell, he wrote letters to high-ranking officials in the town saying that the family were troublemakers. Police arrested one of the Young sons for cultivating marijuana on Altmire’s property, allowing police to raid the Young estate. They seized all the money at the estate, but found no drugs. A year later, police returned and arrested the entire family under suspicious evidence. The judge and prosecution’s witnesses were closely tied with Altmire. The parents, as well as four of their children, were found guilty of possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana in an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Header photo credit: Edward Corpuz