Foster freed from 93-year sentence for medical marijuana
Don Wirtshafter has reported that Will Foster, the Oklahoma medical
marijuana patient who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for
keeping a small cultivation room in his basement, was released
on parole April 26, 2001. 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 Percodan and
Percocet, made him moody and could not be adequately controlled
by proper dosage.
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," he said. "I told my conservative
doctor what I was doing; he did not really agree with it because
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 Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating turned
down the request. 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.