An Alaska-based news reporter who quit her job on live television to advocate for cannabis could face 24 years behind bars.
Charlo Greene, then a reporter for KTVA, ended her segment on marijuana by revealing that she was a proponent for weed legalization in Sept. 2014. At the time, Greene was the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, the subject of her news report.
‘F**k it, I quit,” Greene said before abruptly walking off camera. Her stunt shocked her colleagues and immediately made her a viral sensation.
Following her move, Greene became a full-time cannabis advocate. She worked to help Alaskans access marijuana after the state legalized recreational pot in Nov. 2014.
But despite the overall approved initiative, Alaska has not been a resource for her legitimate marijuana operation. Instead, the state launched a series of undercover operations and raids against Greene’s club, and ultimately charged her with eight serious criminal offenses of “misconduct involving a controlled substance.”
If convicted, Greene could face 24 years behind bars.
“It’s almost dizzying when you try to make sense of it,” Greene told The Guardian. “It could literally cost me the rest of my adult life.”
Greene, 28, called the potential punishment a “modern-day lynching.” Her case has raised a number of questions about the ongoing war on drugs—one that many say harshly punishes people of color for nonviolent drug offenses.
Greene says she is passionate about the medicinal value of marijuana. She first became interested in the drug in college after discovering that it was a much healthier alternative to alcohol.
“It was something I had been taking for granted—that this could literally be changing these people’s lives.”
Alaska’s marijuana laws have a complex history and are confusing and contradictory. Alaska was the first to legalize cannabis for in-home use in the 1970s and passed a formal medical law in 1998.
However, officials never created a system for licensing medical dispensaries, which left users with very few legal options.
“No one could ever agree on what the state of the law in Alaska actually was,” Stanford Law Professor Robert MacCoun said.
But once the drug became legal, Greene grew determined to advocate for further expansion. She organized a private patients’ association, which soon became more than just a hobby. Eventually, she decided to quit her job to work full-time for her cannabis club.
The 2014 measure that made manufacturing, sale and possession of the drug legal went into effect in Feb. 2015, five months after Greene’s infamous announcement. This means trouble for Greene because the state has not yet finalized its regulations for retail operations and in the interim, the Alaskan Cannabis Club allowed people to purchase memberships—and supplied marijuana when members made donations.
According to police records, detectives immediately targeted the operation, with six undercover purchases and two raids in a five-month period. The raids brought armed officers to the property, a move that made Greene, and her siblings feel uneasy.
“The fact that they were watching us for so long, I kind of felt violated,” said Jennifer Egbe, Greene’s 26-year-old sister. “I was really just heartbroken. I never assumed it would go this far.”
For more on Charlo Greene, check out this EBONY.com exclusive interview.