Free Will…Again


In 2002 I interviewed Will Foster, on Oklahoma man whose 1995 arrest for growing medical marijuana had attracted international attention after he received a 93-year prison sentence. Foster, who grew the marijuana to treat his rheumatoid arthritis, had been released in April 2001 after serving four and a half years, thanks to an appeals court that reduced his sentence to 20 years, making him eligible for parole. "A lot of people tell me I give them hope," Foster said, "because I did have 93 years in prison, and now I'm free."

Not anymore. The Drug War Chronicle reports that Foster has been behind bars for nearly 16 months in California, where he moved (with Oklahoma's permission) after his release, because of a dispute over the terms of his parole. The story is  a bit complicated, but the basic thrust is that California officials said Foster had completed his parole, while Oklahoma officials disagreed. In 2006 he successfully fought an Oklahoma warrant, but later the state issued a new warrant after Foster refused to agree to a retroactive four-year extension of his parole. That was not a problem until Foster was busted for growing marijuana by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies. The cultivation charges were dropped after it became clear that the plants were for Foster's own medical use, but he remains in jail awaiting extradition to Oklahoma, which wants him to complete his 20-year prison sentence.  

"In their warrant, they said I violated the terms and conditions of parole in Oklahoma, then fled Oklahoma to escape justice," Foster told the Chronicle. "But I haven't been back in Oklahoma since I left in 2001. I successfully finished parole here, I beat back that earlier extradition effort, and they're still coming after me."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oklahoma Gov. Brady Henry have the power to stop what looks like vindictive harassment of a man who has already spent a total of nearly six years behind bars for something that should not have been a crime to begin with. Previous Reason coverage of Will Foster's case, including Adam J. Smith's 1997 story, here.