Cancer Patient Jailed For Medical Cannabis Is Set Free

Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison Over Medicinal Weed Purchase Released After 1 Year

We’re seeing states decriminalize medical and recreational cannabis at a rapid pace. As this process continues, advocates are calling for the thousands of non-violent prisoners who violated cannabis-related laws to be freed. These criminals were charged with crimes that wouldn’t be considered troublesome now.

One particular story from Illinois has grabbed quite a bit of media attention.

Thomas Franzen, a 37 year-old with stage 3 testicular cancer, had spent about a year in prison before being freed a quarter into his sentence. What could have possibly made police put a cancer patient behind bars? Surely it would’ve had to be a truly harmful crime, right?

Think again.

Franzen has battled various forms of cancer since he was a teenager. Many cancer patients use marijuana to ease the painful symptoms that come with the disease – and this has been common practice even before medical marijuana’s legalization.

Franzen would order cannabis by mail. In 2014, a postal worker became suspicious of Franzen’s packages and managed to acquire a search warrant. Authorities then intercepted a haul of edibles: 430 THC-infused chocolate bars that weighed 42 pounds. The weight of the items as a whole would be considered by the law, rather than the weight of the THC itself. Thus, Franzen was up against a scary legal scenario.

He was charged with drug conspiracy and trafficking over 5,000 grams of cannabis. The charge would normally lead to a sentence of 12-60 years in prison, but Franzen plead guilty to a lesser charge – in 2019, he was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

“He’s very relieved to have the case over,” his attorney, David Camic, said in response to his sentencing.

“The judge was cognizant of his health and wanted to give him a break, but ultimately, 40 pounds of cannabis is a large amount.’

Many feel that Franzen’s sentence is frustrating due to what came shortly after it. One day after the sentencing, Illinois voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use, and the decision came with more than 11,000 pardons for small marijuana convictions.

How Did The Coronavirus Pandemic Lead To Franzen’s Release?

Prisons have become hotspots for the coronavirus over the past few months. Overcrowded with prisoners, many of these facilities have faced outbreaks that have quickly spread. Some governors, like Pritzker in Illinois, have considered releasing non-violent offenders to limit the crowds. In fact, the facility holding Franzen, Stateville Correctional Centre, had at least one prisoner test positive for the virus.

Franzen’s lawyer contacted Pritzker directly and emphasized the importance of his release considering his vulnerability to the virus due to his battle with cancer. Plus, the prison would not be equipped to support Franzen’s medical needs. Frazen was released, but he still needs to complete two years of parole.

It’s a shame that Frazen faced legal consequences in the first place for trying to cope with his cancer symptoms, but we’re happy to see more and more non-violent cannabis crime offenders be freed.