She Went Viral over Weed, Now She Faces Decades in Prison over It

October 5th 2016

Thor Benson

Charlo Greene was an anchor for KTVA in Alaska and became known nationally in 2014 when a video of her quitting her job on air went viral.

Greene was reporting on the Alaska Cannabis Club when she revealed she was the owner of the club and was quitting her job to focus on being a cannabis advocate. Since then, Greene has been a notable figure in the legalization world.

But she now faces criminal charges related to marijuana. Greene has been charged with 14 offenses in connection with marijuana sales, which could result in a sentence of up to 54 years in prison. Authorities allege that she gave club members marijuana in exchange for club donations.

Alaska is still in the process of determining how to go forward with marijuana legalization since voters approved it at the end of 2014, and selling marijuana is not yet fully legal in the state.

charlo greene

Greene has created a petition calling for the charges to be dropped.

We spoke with Greene about her situation. She said that she would not discuss the details of her charges, but talked about the overall situation, if she feels being African-American played a role, Alaska and how she feels about cannabis.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

ATTN: Do you feel you were unfairly targeted because of your status in the cannabis world?

Greene: Yeah, I think that's pretty clear, because I'm a public figure, because I can stand, because I don't look like who they would hope would be one of the most public faces of Alaska.

ATTN: Do you think they're trying to make an example of you?

Greene: I don't know what for. If the message they're trying to send is regardless of if you want to go out and change a law, they're going to punish you for challenging the status quo, I don't think that's a message that's going to resonate with anyone.

ATTN: Do you believe your race is a factor in this?

Greene: Yeah, I think it'd be hard to argue against that.

ATTN: Why is cannabis important to you?

Greene: I know the people that it helps. I know the potential it has to help so many more. I know that it's been used as a tool of oppression for nearly a century. I've always thought of it as being one of God's most beneficial plants. It's something that we can fix, and it's on us to do that — our generation. I don't want my kids to have to inherit this drug war. We know it's failing. We've known that for a really long time, and about one in three African-American men spends time behind bars, the vast majority for simple marijuana possession. It's outrageous that no one has taken a strong enough stance against this to stop it up to now.

ATTN: Has Alaska been strict on drug laws in the past, from your perspective?

Greene: No. Back in 1975, the state of Alaska passed the Ravin Act, which basically stated because the state couldn't prove consuming marijuana caused any harm, they had no right invading your privacy to stop you from consuming. So it protected your right to grow up to 24 plants and to have up to 4 ounces of usable marijuana in your home. That's been in the law, in the constitution, since 1975. So, no, it hasn't been a strict stance.

Alaska, one of the things that makes it great is its people are so independent. This is a place where you're allowed to be that much more free than other places in the nation. It's just when there are different groups that come into power, cannabis is just the whipping boy. It's an easy target. When a conservative wants to look tough on crime, they attack cannabis, so there's been a lot of back and forth, but the constitution still stands.

ATTN: I know you're trying to rally support. What kind of message would you like to get out to people?

Greene: The state is trying to send a message, trying to discourage people from standing up and fighting for what's right, and now, it's more important than ever for us to rally and send one right back. That is that we're willing to fight for what is right, and no one can agree that me spending the rest of my life in jail over a plant that I gave everything toward legalizing is right. It's not right.

ATTN: Is there anything else you'd like to say about this?

Greene: Just that I'll be working to garner more support and getting out and speaking about what's happening in different communities. One outlet I've found to be most effective in relieving my stress is music, so I'll be releasing some of what I've been working on in the coming weeks and going on tour with it.

John Skidmore, director of the criminal division for the state of Alaska Department of Law, disputed Greene's characterization of her charges. He told ATTN: that Greene is one of three individuals the courts are going after for distributing marijuana before marijuana rules and regulations are ;in place. He added that her ;case is not being pursued because of her race, stature, or any of the factors specific to her.