We’re really caught up in some strange days. It’s sickeningly commonplace to open news feeds to find another unarmed African American citizen gunned down by police. People are demanding non-addictive, natural medicine and being told by a federal organization with a distinct conflict of interest that there isn’t enough proof to legalize. The country as a whole is on the brink of an election between two candidates that fall radically short of public expectations as much as with marijuana reform as anything else. Yet, somehow it still comes as a surprise that the powers-that-be have invested so much time, money, and effort into burying Alaska marijuana advocate Charlo Greene.
The Secret Life of Charlo Greene
Greene left a pretty unforgettable impression on anyone witness to her infamous exit from Anchorage, Alaska’s KTVA. If, for some reason, you need a refresher, she’s the news anchor who, while covering a story about an underground cannabis club, revealed live on air that she was actually the organizer of said club before casually punctuating this jawdropper with “Fuck it, I quit.” All of this went down back in 2014 and Greene wasn’t ready to leave this incident as her legacy (although what a legacy!) As promised in her KTVA swansong, she turned her attention to marijuana advocacy.
Greene’s Alaska Marijuana Advocacy Work
Not to say that she’d been lax on fighting the good fight prior to her abrupt departure on live television. Establishing the Alaska Cannabis Club was no small feat. She founded the club on April 20, 2014 (you’ve got to love Greene’s style). At this point, Alaska’s marijuana laws were in some ways progressive but in others bafflingly strict. Long before most states were even seriously considering legalized cannabis, Alaska was putting the Alaska Medical Marijuana Initiative of 1998 into effect. But even with medical cannabis legalized, finding it could be a bit of a challenge to say the least. The law stated that patients were only able to obtain marijuana through growing their own or by dealing with a certified caregiver. Caregivers were restricted to providing cannabis for only one patient that was not a family member. The Alaska Cannabis Club was designed to help patients get the medicine they needed despite being faced by these bizarrely restrictive guidelines.
Since dispensaries were still outlawed under the 1998 law, the Alaska Cannabis Club provided a major opportunity for patients that couldn’t find a caregiver. Membership to the Alaska Cannabis Club wasn’t free but once membership was purchased, patients could make “donations” with benefits returned in the form of weed. It was almost as if Greene had found a way to build a dispensary where no dispensary was meant to exist. But she’d also developed the Alaska Cannabis Club to be self-sustaining so she could keep her attention focused on Alaska marijuana advocacy efforts. While medical marijuana patients took care of each other’s needs at the Alaska Cannabis Club, Greene was raising upwards of $9,000 in support of legalized recreational weed initiatives in the state.
The Conspiracy Against Greene
It would be nice to think that Alaska’s law enforcement officers would have bigger fish to fry but it seems that Greene’s exit from KTVA left a big impression on people on both sides of legalization. Police honed in on the Alaska Cannabis Club, facilitating six undercover transactions within the club and conducting two full scale armed raids within a five-month span. What adds further insult to this obvious targeting is that a mere five months after Greene’s televised resignation, Alaska marijuana cultivation, sale, and possession became legal. This seemingly important fact has done nothing to dissuade law enforcement from coming after Greene with everything they’ve got.
Since the Alaska Cannabis Club is solely registered in Greene’s name, she’s facing an array of possession charges amounting to 10 felonies and four misdemeanors totaling a potential 54-year prison sentence. Potential does not mean probable and most analysts agree that Greene will serve nowhere near that sentence. But sentencing Greene to any jail time at all following the lifted restrictions on Alaska’s marijuana laws in 2015 not only seems ludicrous but reeks of ego gratification. Speaking to The Guardian, Cynthia Franklin, acting director of the state’s alcohol and marijuana regulations office confirmed that Greene’s club was specifically targeted, along with 2 other businesses, because they began operations prior to the state’s approval. But a jail sentence for jumping the gun seems more than a tad extreme. In light of Alaska’s decisions to loosen restrictions on sale and possession, fining Greene would seem like a much more suitable and logical decision.
An Uncertain Future
With Greene’s attorney abandoning her case to begin working for the state of Alaska as a prosecutor, the marijuana advocate understandably feels abandoned in her time of need. As we’ve documented in past blogs, racial profiling and prejudice is blatantly apparent in the statistics of marijuana-related arrests, a point that hasn’t escaped Greene as she refers to her situation as a “modern-day lynching.” Of course, there’s a danger of drawing parallels to the incomparable horror of lynching but at only 28-years-old, a 54-year prison sentence is basically a threat to Greene’s life. She has every reason to feel angry, afraid, and betrayed.
While the future for Charlo Greene is frighteningly uncertain, there are steps you can take to lend your support to the Alaska marijuana icon. Financial support can be donated through Greene’s Cannabis Freedom Fund or you can sign a petition to persuade the state of Alaska to dismiss her charges. Likewise, you can stay up to date on her progress on her official site. Marijuana cannot continue to be perpetuated as a criminal substance in light of all we’ve learned about its benefits. It’s situations like this that demand your voice be heard so that these archaic laws change once and for all.