This summer, United States Attorney General Eric Holder decried "draconian" mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenders. He said that the federal government would no longer pursue minor drug offenders, leaving their prosecution up to the individual states. Instead, the feds would focus their efforts on prosecuting violent offenders and members of organized crimes, including gangs and cartels.
While that certainly sounds good to those who could be facing decades in federal prison for relatively minor drug crimes, it does not do much to help those who will be prosecuted in Oklahoma courts.
The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) calls Oklahoma one of "The Five Worst States to Get Busted with Pot," and Peter Gorman, in an article for Cannabis Culture, calls Oklahoma the "home of marijuana hell." The state's drug laws mandate a minimum sentence of two years for drug distribution and a maximum of life in prison--even as a first offense. Read more about Oklahoma drug penalties.In the 2006 article "To Break a Butterfly on a Wheel," Peter Gorman describes the ten longest sentences related to a marijuana conviction in the United States. Three of the ten were handed down by Oklahoma judges:
- Will Foster was sentenced to 93 years after a "small marijuana grow" was discovered after investigators acted on an informant's tip that Foster was manufacturing meth. No meth was found in the search--only the marijuana that Foster was growing to help alleviate the pain of his rheumatoid arthritis.
- Jimmy Montgomery was sentenced to 110 years for drug and gun possession. Montgomery, a paraplegic, had 2 ounces of marijuana he used medicinally and a firearm that he inherited from his father, a police officer.
- James Geddes was sentenced to 150 years in prison for marijuana cultivation after he was found to be growing five plants. He was sentenced to 75 years for cultivation and an additional 75 years for possession of the same plants.
A more recent case involves Patricia Spottedcrow, who was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison for a $31 marijuana sale.In each of the above cases, the extraordinarily excessive sentences were ultimately reduced.Foster, sentenced to 93 years, was released after four years because of intense media attention to the case.Montgomery, sentenced to 110 years, had his sentence reduced to 10 years to be served at home because of his medical problems. Still--10 years for 2 ounces?Geddes, sentenced to 150 years, was released on parole after 11 years for the cultivation of five marijuana plants.
Spottedcrow, sentenced to 12 years, was released last year after serving two years of her sentence. Her early release was due in part to the outcry surrounding her sentence. Obviously, not everyone who is arrested for a drug offense or convicted for marijuana possession, distribution, or cultivation is slapped with such an excessive sentence. There are other sentencing options available, but mandatory minimums and an attempt to appear tough on crime make shockingly long drug sentences a very real possibility for even non-violent offenses.
Because of the potential consequences of an Oklahoma drug conviction, it is imperative that anyone arrested and charged seek immediate legal counsel and representation by an experienced drug defense attorney. You can also read more drug-related articles here.