For those who don’t remember, Charlo Greene made the local Anchorage news a little more interesting when she quit her job on-air while reporting on the issue of medicinal marijuana. She resigned in style, proclaiming “Fuck it, I quit,” as parents watching at home rushed to cover the ears of little Johnnie and Janie.
But, while she became a viral sensation and even earned the “Courage in Media Award” issued by High Times, her fame was short-lived. And, now, her freedom may be too.
The Background Story
Greene grew interested in the cannabis industry as a college student. She’d been looking for an alternative to alcohol and pot filled that role as she pursued her degree in broadcast news. She worked at a few news stations before returning to Alaska, where she is from.
She covered crime and courts back in her home state which parlayed into marijuana and gave her inside access to the movement. Her passion increased after meeting activists in Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize recreational weed.
This insight moved her towards the movement and she became a supporter of legalization. She was also the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, the club upon which she was reporting at the time of her resignation.
After her career as a reporter ended, Greene began a campaign to raise funds for marijuana reform; her job was now that of a full-time cannabis advocate. And her efforts weren’t in vain:
Alaskans voted to legalize recreational weed in November 2014, the third state to do so
But, the changing minds of citizens aside, the government isn’t as progressive: the state launched an undercover investigation and raided Greene’s club. Eventually, they charged her with a myriad of criminal offenses involving the misconduct of a controlled substance. The indictment originally involved eight offenses but it’s grown to fourteen.
If the prosecutors are successful, she’ll face up to fifty-four years in prison.
Where She Stands Now
Unfortunately, Greene went the way of many viral sensations: you’re the most popular person on the world wide web until you aren’t. Viral fame is fleeting and only lasts until the next person finds their fifteen minutes (or a really great cat video pops up). In short, the impending prison sentence Greene is facing isn’t garnering anywhere the amount of attention her on-air proclamation did. Still, she has the ears of some.
Many marijuana advocates point out the racial implications: Greene is African American and the punitive process of the war on drugs has unfairly impacted members of her race more than others. Others point out the ridiculousness of the punishment: fifty-four years. A little perspective: per the Washington Post, the average sentence for rape in the United States is eleven years. Per the US Department of Justice, the mean prison sentence for those convicted of murder and non-negligent manslaughter is 20 years and eight months.
And then there are those who argue Alaska law is somewhat culpable: in regards to marijuana, it’s confusing
Marijuana was legalized two years ago, as mentioned above, but, according to the Washington Post, its illegality wasn’t always crystal clear. Back in the seventies, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that adults were protected from prosecution if they possessed cannabis in their own home and solely for personal use. The protection was a result of the Alaska Constitution’s right to privacy.
Add that to a lack of clear regulations of what’s allowed and what’s not and the grey area between criminal and legal widens
For Greene, who originally organized a private patient’s association before starting a club, it could be a matter of too much too soon. Sometimes, the early bird gets the worm and sometimes it gets the undivided attention of the government.
The sale of recreational weed went into effect in Alaska in February of 2015, but the state hadn’t finalized its regulations on retail operations. Prior to that, Greene used her Alaska Cannabis Club to supply marijuana to members who obtained memberships by making “donations.”
Once the government got wind of this, they began their investigation: five months of undercover detectives conducting raids and making “purchases” through donations.
Greene wasn’t actually involved in these purchase, according the state records, but prosecutors charged her, and only her, because the club is in her name
And she’s not alone: per the state’s alcohol and marijuana control office, two others companies are faces similar charges for conducting business before regulations were set.
While many see the government as overreaching, especially in regards to the stiffness of the potential prison sentence, there are some folks who don’t disagree that Greene was in the wrong.
They argue that most sellers and growers waited patiently for the okay: they stood by as the regulations were sorted out and they adhered to the timeframe imposed. Simply, they didn’t jump the gun on the ganja.
Still, most don’t want to see Greene go to prison for a pot prematurity. They view it akin to a bar selling alcohol before it gets its liquor license. The punishment is a fine: it’s not Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. It’s pay a 200-dollar citation.
A silver lining for Greene is that legal experts believe it’s unlikely that she’ll end up incarcerated for decades
This trial already seems like a posterchild for overzealousness on the prosecution’s part.
Even so, any amount of prison time has the potential to infuse all sorts of hardships into someone’s life and create unforeseen obstacles. It costs more than freedom. It costs future earnings and causes psychological damage. In this case, it’s wildly unfortunate: jail isn’t equitable to justice.