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10 of the Harshest Sentences for Pot in the U.S.

The punishments for pot do not fit the crime.

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Magbie’s marijuana punishment was a death sentence. Without their medication behind bars, pot patients who make it out alive have endured days, weeks or years without their medication. Even after release, conditions of parole, including urine tests, may prevent patients from accessing their medicine.

4. Robert Platshorn
Robert Platshorn is famous for being a marijuana trafficker. A leader of what the DEA dubbed the "Black Tuna Gang," Platshorn spent the mid- to late-'70s smuggling weed into the US from Colombia before he was busted in 1978. Authorities accused him of importing as much as 500 tons of pot, and Platshorn gained infamy for his connection to what the DEA said was the most sophisticated drug operation it had seen yet. He was sentenced to 30 years, 28 of which he served until he was released on parole in 2008. Because Platshorn served nearly the full length of his sentence, he has taken on another label, this time as the man believed to have spent the most time locked up for pot in America.

Now almost 70 years old, Platshorn is a marijuana activist who has managed to stay in the public eye. He recently toured America with the Silver Tour, speaking with seniors about medical marijuana. His most recent brush with law enforcement went down this summer. In May 2011, Platshorn received a letter from the parole board apparently releasing him from service. But this July, after his parole officer had passed away and two days before he was to speak before the American Bar Association, a new parole officer named Scott Kirsche showed up at his door and demanded he give a urine sample. Platshorn -- who says his former parole officer allowed him to travel to pot-related events and also approved his use of cannabis oil for skin cancer -- failed the test and was ordered to immediately stop treating his cancer with cannabis oil.

Then, in one of the most shocking elements of Platshorn’s life story, he received what is effectively a gag order: Platshorn told South Florida’s Sun Sentenial that he is banned from travel “to promote the legalization of marijuana without the express permission of the U.S. Parole Commission.” Platshorn was specifically told not to appear at an upcoming High Times medical event in San Francisco, and to cut ties with patient and fellow Silver Tour board member Irvin Rosenfeld. In July, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ordered Platshorn to remain under parole supervision, while claiming his request for freedom to speak at marijuana-related events conflicts with his criminal record.

5. Will Foster

US Army veteran and business-owner Will Foster was suffering from widespread rheumatoid arthritis when he started growing marijuana. In 1997, Oklahoma police discovered his marijuana garden and just $28 cash after a “confidential informant” helped them procure a “John Doe” search warrant for methamphetamine. His sentence was reduced to 20 years and he was paroled to California in 2001. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was unhappy when Foster completed parole, and attempted to extradite him back to Oklahoma -- a fight Foster won.

But in 2008, Foster’s marijuana grow, legal by California standards, was raided. Foster sat in a California jail for a year before local authorities dropped the charges. Unfortunately for Foster, Oklahoma officials showed up at the Calif. jail, shackled Foster and drove him back to Oklahoma, where he remained until he was released in late November 2009.

6. John Avery

In 1994, more than 50 DEA agents, local police and sheriffs raided wheelchair-bound John Avery’s 50-acre property. They discovered 1,250 pot plants in an underground marijuana garden. Police arrested Avery's son-law, Ricky Daniels, and a friend, David Tapley. Collectively, the two implicated Daniels’ wife Michele, John Avery, Avery’s deceased son, and his daughter Sheri. The five names were enough to charge John Avery with “continuing a criminal enterprise.”