The legal cannabis industry is booming. As a CBD business owner, I personally spend a great amount of my time thinking of how to sell more cannabis products. Wealthy hedge fund managers are making a killing investing in marijuana companies. CBD stores are popping up everywhere. Both CBD and marijuana consumption is skyrocketing because of the coronavirus pandemic. But somehow there are 40,000 people in America, locked in cages this very moment for charges related to marijuana.
Every month or so I’m going to write about someone who is sitting in a cell because of the plant that I am legally selling. It is completely unfair, but this is my attempt to shed light on the situation and hopefully spread awareness to these cases.
Lee Caroll Brooker
Today I’m writing about Lee Caroll Brooker. He is currently serving his life sentence without parole in the medical furlough program of the Alabama Department of Corrections. This program is for people over the age of 55 with life threatening health conditions. Mr. Brooker is 81 years old, he was disabled at the time of his arrest. He is basically serving out his sentence in a jail hospital until he dies.
Lee was given a life sentence because Alabama law mandates that felons found with over 2 pounds of marijuana are automatically given life sentences without parole. Decades prior to this charge, Mr. Booker went on an armed robbery spree over the course of 4 days that did not result in anyone getting injured. He was tried, convicted, and served time for the robberies. While on parole he had at least one positive drug test in Georgia. Because of these past charges, even though they happened over 20 years prior and he completed his sentence, he was considered a habitual offender in the eyes of the state of Alabama.
Lee's Life Before Life Without Parole
At age 17 Lee joined the military. He served in Lebanon and The Dominican Republic. Mr. Brooker excelled in the military, earning multiple commendations including Combat Infantryman Badge and Expert Infantryman Badge with added qualification bars and attained the rank of Sergeant. (eji.org) During his time in the service and later working as a carpenter took a toll on Lee’s body. He also was clinically diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and treated at a Veteran’s hospital by multiple psychiatrists. Mr. Brooker’s preferred method of treatment was smoking marijuana. He said it helped relive the pain in his spine and eased his anxiety.
In 2011, two Dothan police officers raided his son Darren’s home, which he was living in, finding 42 marijuana plants. The amount of marijuana used against Lee totaled to 2.8 pounds. This included plants that had been thrown away, roots, and unusable parts. Alabama law states anything over 2.2 pounds of marijuana constitutes a Class A felony. The 0.6 pounds made a huge difference, and the amount of marijuana that was presented to the court was debated but ultimately Lee was charged with the Class A felony.
It’s no secret that weed is illegal in Alabama. I’m sure Lee knew that he was breaking the law and could face jail time. Also, Lee’s previous convictions are relevant. However, for this man to die in custody is outrageous. After rejecting Brooker’s request for the state to review the case Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore said the punishment was ‘unjustified and excessive.’ The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States in 2016. The court let the Alabama’s previous ruling stand.
Lee Brooker will most likely die soon in custody. Based on the facts I have read I believe this to be unreasonable and excessive. After reviewing the case the piece that stands out to me is the actual amount of marijuana seized. How less than a pound can make such a difference determining if the next 10-20 years of a man’s life will be served in an institution or not. It seems like the officers used as much of the plant they could find to hit that magic number on the scale, resulting in a man getting life without parole.
We need marijuana reform and need to make right on cases like Lee Brooker. He most likely will die, but there are people still getting locked up for the same thing legitimate businesses are being praised for. This case shows the hypocrisy of our current justice system. It calls for drug reform and an end to ‘3 strike’ and habitual offender policies.
At the trial, Lee testified that his son had nothing to do with the plants and he was solely responsible. Darren Brooker was given probation.
How You Can Help
The best one stop organization I can find online is the Last Prisoner Project.
Leafly also recently did an article about prisoners that need our help now.