In 2012, Ronald Hammond sat in a Baltimore courtroom. His charge? Being in possession of exactly 5.9 grams of marijuana. Even the judge said that it was a ridiculous case. “5.9 grams won’t roll you a decent joint,” Askew Gatewood, the judge (who likes his blunts on the fatty end, apparently) told the prosecutor in the case.
Gatewood told Hammond to just plead guilty and he’d be let off with a small fine, the maximum fine in the area for less than 10 grams being a mere $100 fine. The only problem was that Gatewood didn’t realize that Hammond was on probation from a 20 year suspended sentence for the small-time crime of selling $40 worth of crack to an undercover cop.
Hammond plead guilty as the judge suggested. The conviction on less than a quarter of weed constituted a probation violation, causing the full 20 year suspended sentence to be enforced. Now Hammond isn’t scheduled to be released from prison until at least 2028.
Legislative changes are happening in Maryland to exclude marijuana as a probation violation and even decriminalize up to 10g of pot, but those changes wouldn’t be retroactive, so they won’t directly help Hammond even if they are drafted into law.
“The state’s satisfied with guilty and a fine, your honor,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Brown said in court according to the Baltimore Sun. Hammond didn’t realize that his plea would result in the probation violation, but two months later he found himself getting sentenced to 20 years.
Hammond plans to appeal his case. The father of two appeared without the assistance of a lawyer, asked for an extension, and was denied because of the trivial amount of drugs in question.
Photo via Grass City Forum user Blutteufel