Patrick Beadle, a 46-year-old father and musician, was slapped with an eight-year prison sentence in Mississippi for possessing 2.89 pounds of marijuana, which he legally bought in his home state of Oregon where he is a medical marijuana patient.
Prosecutors in Mississippi, where Beadle was charged with drug trafficking, admitted they had no evidence to prove that he was actually trafficking.
But then, in Mississippi, which has the third highest incarceration rate in the world, it seems prosecutors can make such flagrant and damning admissions then still lock people up behind bars.
Beadle was pulled over by Madison County police in March 2107 for crossing over a lane line on the side of the road – an often-used pretext for cops who are racial profiling black and brown people.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out that Mississippi’s Madison County Sheriff’s Department has a long history of rampant racism, targeting the Black community using roadblocks, checkpoints, warrantless home searches, and “jump out” patrols, all of which led a lawsuit in 2017. The lawsuit resulted in the discovery of racist e-mails sent within the Department extolling white pride and denigrating people of color.
As we know, thanks to the ACLU, Black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people despite comparable consumption rates.
But Mississippi is one of only four states along with Alabama, South Dakota, and Louisiana, where possession of marijuana can result in mandatory life-without-parole sentences under habitual offender statutes.
“Marijuana policy in this country – and drug policy more broadly – has long been racist in effect and horribly harmful to communities of color,” writes Ezekiel Edwards, Director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. “Such policies have done nothing to stem drug use or availability and continue to cost billions of dollars for enforcement and incarceration.”
The ACLU director notes the injustice and absurdity of the growing number of states where medical and recreational marijuana is legal yet there continue to be thousands of people like Patrick Beadle whose lives and families are being destroyed by outdated and racist marijuana laws and policies.
“America should follow Canada’s lead and stop imprisoning people for marijuana and instead start redirecting resources to more urgent community needs. We are decades overdue,” said Edwards.