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Oklahoma Man Sentenced to 93 Years For Cultivating Marijuana

Friday, 17 January 1997

An Oklahoma jury sentenced a Tulsa man to 93 years in jail for cultivating marijuana in a 25-square-foot underground shelter. The man was also ordered to pay $62,000 in fines.

Jurors found William Joseph Foster, 38, guilty of four marijuana felonies and one misdemeanor despite testimony that he was growing marijuana for personal use to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

"William Foster was growing and using marijuana for pain management," explained Michael Pearson of Oklahoma NORML, who noted that a medical marijuana necessity defense is not accepted by Oklahoma law. "Mr. Foster has utilized prescription drugs which he has found to be not as effective and/or to produce undesirable side effects.

Prosecutors claimed that there existed little medical evidence to support Foster's claim and accused him of maintaining a sophisticated marijuana growing system capable of producing over 2,500 marijuana cigarettes. Testimony from expert witness Ed Rosenthal, a writer-researcher specializing in marijuana and it's cultivation, denied this claim.

Rosenthal said that Foster's basement growing area would have only yielded 12 and one-half ounces of smokable marijuana. "What we have here is ... simple possession of marijuana," maintained Foster's attorney, Stuart W. Southerland, Esq.

Jurors rejected this assertion, however, and sentenced Foster to serve 70 years in jail for cultivation of marijuana. He also received a two-year sentence for possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, a 20-year term for possessing marijuana in the presence of a child who lived in the home, and a one-year sentence for failing to obtain a drug stamp. Foster is planning on appealing the verdict.

"This decision was a case of overkill," summarized Pearson. "When Oklahoma looks at 'truth in sentencing,' this will definitely be a case that will stand out. Justice in Oklahoma just doesn't exist any more.

For more information, please contact Michael Pearson of Oklahoma NORML at (405) 840-4367 or Attorney Stuart W. Southerland at (918) 744-5448.