A man who legally purchased medical marijuana in Oregon was arrested in Mississippi and faces nearly ten years behind bars, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
> Patrick Beadle, a 46-year-old father and musician, received an eight-year prison sentence in Mississippi for possessing 2.89 pounds of marijuana. If his sentence stands, he would spend nearly a decade behind bars for possessing a substance that is legal in nine states and now all of Canada. Such a severe, inhumane sentence speaks volumes about the inanity and heartlessness of our criminal justice system. But this story gets worse.
> Mr. Beadle says he bought the marijuana legally in Oregon, where he is a resident and a medical marijuana patient. Oregon is one of 30 states that have legalized medical marijuana and one of the nine states in which recreational use is also legal.
According to Beadle, the marijuana in his possession was for personal use, and prosecutors in Mississippi — who have charged him with breaking the state’s drug trafficking laws — acknowledge they have no evidence to support he was involved in trafficking.
How did Beadle find himself in this position?
> Mr. Beadle was pulled over at 10 a.m. by police in Madison County for crossing over a lane line on the side of the road, a useful pretext for police who are racial profiling. Indeed, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department has long had a culture of rampant racism, targeting the Black community using roadblocks, checkpoints, warrantless home searches, and “jump out” patrols. Such unconstitutional practices led to a lawsuit in 2017 filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Mississippi, and the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett on behalf of Black residents of Madison County. The lawsuit has, in turn, resulted in the discovery of racist e-mails sent within the Department extolling white pride and denigrating people of color.
> Mississippi does not stand alone when it comes to racial bias in marijuana enforcement. Indeed nationwide, Black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people despite comparable usage rates. But Mississippi is an outlier in the harshness of its penalties for marijuana offenses. It is one of only four states – Mississippi, Alabama, South Dakota, and Louisiana – where possession of marijuana can result in mandatory life-without-parole sentences under habitual offender statutes.