Sick and Elderly Missouri Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail for Growing Weed
Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri, but 60-year-old diabetic Steven Sutherland is feeling the full force of prohibition’s last gasp.
Published on September 9, 2019

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A 60-year-old Missouri man fighting diabetes, seizures, and respiratory issues was sentenced to 10 years in jail earlier this year, as a five year old trial finally came to a head. The sentencing illustrates the full brunt of America’s remaining war on weed.

According to a new report from the Riverfront Times, St. Clair, Missouri resident Steven Sutherland was arrested in 2015 after police raided his house and found 101 grams — or about 3 and a half ounces — of weed, as well as a basement grow housing 21 cannabis plants in various growth stages. Sutherland was arrested and charged with felony cannabis possession.

"When they showed up on my front porch, I was smoking a bowl and drinking a cup of coffee,” Sutherland said. “Then [an officer] grabbed me on the throat, swung me around. I had a steel brace on my leg."

Now, after years of court dates and delays due to Sutherland’s poor health, a jury convicted Sutherland on the felony charges in April of this year, with a local judge deciding on a 10 year sentence in May. 

As Sutherland begins his decade behind bars though, his health has deteriorated significantly. Sutherland wears an oxygen tank at all times in jail, but also needs a separate respiratory mask for sleep. Additionally, Sutherland’s type 2 diabetes may be complicated by a prison diet, not to mention other potential complications from his seizures. But even though Missouri recently legalized marijuana for medical purposes, the program has been marred by delays and a slow regulatory process.

Gallery — Photos of Cops Smoking Weed:

“Simply put," Sutherland's public defender, Matt Huckeby, wrote in a pre-sentencing motion, "the movement of citizens in Missouri... is indisputably away from criminal punishment for marijuana."

In the end, the judge was not swayed, and Sutherland will now sit in a cell until 2029. 

Despite a statewide move towards cannabis reform with the passing of a medical marijuana law last year, Missouri law enforcement officers have developed a reputation for draconian cannabis policing. Earlier this year, Missouri cops were chastised after a viral video showed officers searching the hospital room of a cancer patient looking for weed they never found. 

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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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