Dale Schafer: 5 Years In Prison For California Medical Marijuana Growing


One of the most soul-affirming things I get to do in my strange career is speak to men who have been incarcerated over flowers.

The first such man I met was Bobby Platshorn. He was sentenced to 64 years in prison for importing marijuana from Mexico and South America in the 1970s. If your folks smoked pot back in the day and it wasn’t Mexican dirt weed, there’s a good chance Bobby and his “Black Tuna Gang” imported it. He did 29 years in prison – the longest serving non-violent marijuana prisoner in US history (for now) – and was released in 2009.

Bobby has since turned his life toward helping others avoid prison for pot by embarking on “The Silver Tour“, which educated seniors in Florida about the need for medical marijuana legalization. I was one of the first marijuana activists he met once released and I helped him adjust to the world of Twitter, Facebook, and the World Wide Web. In turn, he inducted me into his “Black Tuna Gang”, the medallion of which I wear around my neck to this day.

Imagine going into prison and missing the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Imagine your last free moments in a world without cell phones, internet, space stations, CDs, and our country fully embroiled in a Cold War, then returning to a world without a Soviet Union, 8-track tapes, pet rocks, half of the Beatles, and pay phones.

Imagine losing half your life for wholesaling weed then returning to a world where that’s legal for medical purposes in over a dozen states.

Next, last year, I got to meet Jeff Mizanskey, who had been convicted under an old Missouri three-strikes law and sentenced to life in prison for pot dealing. After 22 years, he is released into a world where pot dealing is a legitimate brick-and-mortar business in two states and pending in two more.

This weekend, I got to meet Dale Schafer. He’s an attorney and hemophiliac who, along with his then-wife, Dr. Mollie Fry, a breast cancer survivor, grew medical marijuana plants in Cool, California, to help themselves and other patients. They worked with the local authorities to ensure their operation was on the up-and-up. Everything seemed to be copacetic with California’s Compassionate Use Act and all the locals, until the feds decided to get involved.

The feds don’t really like to get involved with minor pot possession and cultivation cases (unless you use pot for civil disobedience at the Liberty Bell) unless the plant count is above 100. That way, they get the federal mandatory minimum of five years for the subjects of their persecution, making the effort worthwhile from a cost-benefit analysis.

Dale and Mollie weren’t growing 100 plants… at any one time. 15 here, 25 there, and the feds then added them all up over the five-year statute of limitations to get over the 100 plant limit. So Dale and Mollie each went to prison for five years.

For growing medical marijuana plants.

For cancer patients.

In California, where medical use had been legal for over a dozen years.

Dale’s daughter Heather reached out to me before the International Cannabis Business Conference, hoping to get Dale’s story out to the masses.

I’m honored and happy to oblige. There but for the grace of my non-existent supreme deity go I.

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show fo

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