On April 23, 2001, Will Foster was released from jail after extensive media exposure, public rallies, and the recommendations of the pardon and parole board on three consecutive occasions. In 1997 Foster had been sentenced to 93 years in jail for 73 medical plants found in the bomb shelter beneath his home (CC#30, Will Foster still in jail).
Before his release this summer, Foster was serving the fourth year of his sentence, recently reduced to 20 years, making him eligible for parole. The only block to his release was the signature of Governor Keating. Because Foster’s imprisonment in 1997 for medical marijuana was followed closely by medical marijuana ballot initiatives in several states, Governor Keating may have been politically motivated to keep Foster locked up.
Cannabis Culture interviewed Foster in September, as he was on his way to a television interview in New York.
“I think that media attention had a lot to do with my release,” said Foster. “My case really outraged a lot of people. I met people in the prison system who I didn’t know from Adam, but who knew about me. Like Dennis Adams, the private prison coordinator, who said that I must be the most famous inmate he had.”
While the media attention Foster received makes his sentence seem unusual, he assured me that he met many others like himself behind bars. At times, he said, it almost made him lose hope.
“I ran into people who had more time for a whole lot less marijuana plants, and I became really concerned. I thought there was no way they were going to make it stick against me. Then I ran into James Geddes, who got 150 years for five plants, and the appeals court upheld it. I thought I was in serious trouble. So when they reduced my sentence to 20 years I was really shocked.”
Foster explains that the Oklahoma judicial system is particularly cruel toward members of the marijuana culture.
“If you ask anyone, they will tell you that Oklahoma is giving out the worst sentences ever. For one, you are dealing with the self-righteous. Anytime you deal with that kind of person you are dealing with a dangerous person. Definitely hellfire-type sentences.”
Foster remembers visits from his son and daughter with a sparkle of happiness. It brought him warmth, he confided, even when he thought he might be imprisoned for the rest of his life. Although four years behind bars was enough to alienate his wife, destroy his family, and ruin his livelihood, Foster’s spirit is strong.
“I am going to be an activist. It is up to us to change these laws. And it is going to take money, because if we don’t put in the money we aren’t going to win. That is the bottom line.”