Attorney/activist Don Wirtshafter has reported that Will Foster, the Oklahoma medical marijuana patent who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for keeping a small cultivation room in his basement, was released on parole yesterday.
Foster, a 42-year-old father of two, was arrested in 1995 for growing marijuana in the basement of his Tulsa home. He used marijuana to relieve chronic pain caused by acute rheumatoid arthritis. Foster used marijuana because other medication he was receiving, specifically Percodans and Percocets, made him moody and could not be adequately dosage controlled.
Police raided Foster's home on December 28, 1995. They were acting on a fraudulent tip that Foster was selling methamphetamine. The raid terrified Foster and his family, including their five-year-old daughter, who watched police tear apart her teddy bear looking for drugs. Only when they forced open a locked steel door did police find Foster's small, 25 square foot growing room. During Foster's trial, the prosecution claimed the plants were equivalent to 2,652 joints. Ed Rosenthal, a marijuana cultivation expert, testified that the yield would be at most 600 joints.
At the time of the raid, Foster was a highly paid computer programmer. "My medical use of marijuana never interfered with my work, I ran a successful business. "I told my conservative doctor what I was doing, he did not really agree with it cause of the health risk of smoking, but he witnessed my positive results. I was minding my own business taking care of my health and my family. What was I doing to anybody that got me 93 years?"
Despite an absence of evidence of any sales, a jury was convinced to convict him with cultivation and intent to distribute. Aggravating factors of possession "in the presence of a minor under age 11" and failure to obtain marijuana tax stamps increased the sentence to 93 years. In 1998, an appeals court found that the 93-year term "shocks our conscience" and reduced the sentence to 20 years, which opened up the possibility of parole for Foster.
The parole board quickly issued a unanimous recommendation for the release of Foster, but the requests was turned down by Oklahoma governor Frank Keating. The following year, Foster came up for parole and received the recommendation of the board, but again was rejected by the governor.
On his third attempt, Foster was freed. Activists speculate that Keating was willing to approve his release because he is no longer a potential candidate for president, attorney general or drug czar.
Foster immediately flew to California where he plans to rebuild his life.