Image via: Paul Ezell, right; Jayne Ezell, left; Daughter, Valerie Ezell, center.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has pardoned a doctor who was arrested and thrown in jail for growing medical marijuana to help his dying wife.
Dr. Paul Ezell, an eye doctor from the Philadelphia suburbs, was arrested in 2014 after an anonymous tipster told cops that he was growing and selling weed. Cops began snooping on Ezell, and got a search warrant to raid his home after finding cannabis trimmings in his trash. In his basement, they discovered a weed grow-op with 28 mature plants, grow lights, and bongs.
Police charged the doctor with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance, paraphernalia possession, possession of a controlled substance, and a host of other crimes. In the end, Ezell ended up serving 6 months in jail and losing his license to practice medicine. The doctor's daughter Victoria was also convicted and her nursing license was revoked.
It's true that Dr. Ezell was growing weed, but he wasn't selling it for profit. The doctor was actually growing medical cannabis in order to help his wife reduce her use of addictive opioid medications. Jayne Ezell was using three different opioid drugs to help treat the pain caused by progressive spinal disease and scoliosis. After seeing his wife struggling with these addictive drugs, the doctor began looking into alternatives.
Ezell soon discovered a wealth of research showing that medical pot can help treat chronic pain and help patients wean themselves off of opioids. Unfortunately, medical marijuana was still illegal in Pennsylvania at the time, so the doctor took it on himself to start growing weed illegally.
But despite his best efforts, Jayne overdosed on opioids and died in 2013. Several months later, Dr. Ezell began breaking down and disposing of his weed grow, but someone apparently spotted him throwing away some of his plants and called the cops.
“Here’s a doctor of 30 years who had not so much as a speeding ticket, and then his whole life is ruined for giving his wife medicine that’s now legal in Pennsylvania,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), Marijuana Moment reports. “This is a prime example of the destructive power of reefer madness... He lost his wife, his career, everything.”
Fetterman brought Ezell's case to Governor Tom Wolf, another advocate for cannabis reform. This week, Wolf granted Ezell a pardon, which will allow him to practice medicine again. Next month, the state Board of Pardons will also hear Victoria Ezell's case. If the board and governor grant this pardon, she will be able to reinstate her nursing license and restart her career.
Governor Wolf has already pardoned 96 people for weed crimes, and he is also working with Fetterman to encourage state lawmakers to pass a comprehensive adult-use legalization bill.
These acts of clemency mirror other efforts to right the wrongs of cannabis prohibition throughout the US. Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker pardoned thousands of former weed offenders at the end of 2019, and Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed a bill that will allow him to mass-pardon former cannabis convicts as well.
And while state and city officials are using their executive powers to pardon pot offenders, other states and cities have launched programs to help people clear minor pot convictions from their criminal records.