Illinois Cancer Patient Sentenced to Four Years in Jail Over Cannabis Edibles
Police intercepted a package containing 42 cannabis-infused chocolate bars on its way to Illinois resident Thomas Franzen, who said he ordered the edibles to treat his cancer.
Published on June 7, 2019

Illinois is on the precipice of adult-use cannabis legalization, with a signature from Governor J.B. Pritzker being all that’s standing between the Prairie State and legal weed. But while local residents and Midwest tourists wait with baited breath to turn Chicago into a cannabis destination, one Illinois cancer patient is feeling the full wrath of American prohibition.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Montgomery, Illinois resident Thomas Franzen, a stage-three cancer patient, was sentenced to four years in jail late last week after he pled guilty to a charge of possessing more than 5,000 grams of cannabis. The issue? Those 5,000 grams were mostly chocolate, broken down into 42 individual candy bars that Franzen intended to use to treat his cancer.

Court records show that Franzen ordered the cannabis chocolates from a California medical marijuana dispensary, with the candy bars weighing in at one pound each. Franzen and his lawyer were able to convince prosecutors that the medicated chocolate was for personal use and not to be sold for resale profit, inspiring prosecutors to offer a plea deal removing “intent to distribute” from the charges, but not excusing Franzen’s illicit order. 

“He’s very relieved to have the case over,” Franzen’s attorney David Camic, told the Tribune. “The judge was cognizant of his health and wanted to give him a break, but ultimately 40 pounds of cannabis is a large amount.”

But while it could have taken Franzen an entire lifetime to consume 40 pounds of cannabis flower, 40 pounds of cannabis-infused chocolate is entirely different, and could have treated Franzen’s cancer for only a number of months.

Illinois currently has a robust medical marijuana program, and it is not exactly clear why Franzen opted to purchase his pot on the black market instead of participating in the MMJ program. But if we were to guess, it is probably because illicit cannabis is generally significantly cheaper than state-regulated medical marijuana.

Ultimately, Franzen will have to serve four years in prison, significantly less time than the 14-year maximum sentence allowed by his guilty plea, but still an incredible hardship for a man simply trying to fight cancer. 

“He’s going through necessary medical treatment and hopefully he’s in a period of remission,” Camic said. “The judge was very kind to delay the sentencing because he will not receive the same level of care in prison that he’s receiving now.”

Hopefully Illinois legalization will mean that no other patients in Franzen’s situation will have to resort to such dire attempts — and face such twisted consequences — to treat their illnesses. 

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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