A Jamaican-American musician living in Oregon was busted last year for driving through Mississippi with nearly three pounds of marijuana. While Patrick Beadle claims he bought the weed legally and for his own medical use, he was nevertheless sentenced on Monday to eight years behind bars without the possibility of parole.
In March 2017, Beadle was on his way back to Oregon from Ohio, where he had been visiting his son. The Jamaican-born musician says he decided to drive through Mississippi because of its musical heritage, according to the Clarion Ledger. On March 8, he was pulled over by a Madison County Sheriff’s Department deputy for allegedly crossing a fog line, something Beadle says he didn’t do.
Beadle thinks he was racially profiled. While that’s difficult to prove, he wouldn’t be the only person to make such a claim against that particular department. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the department in March, alleging in a press release that it “has implemented and enforced an unwritten policy and longstanding practice of racially profiling Black individuals and disproportionately targeting Black communities.” While black people make up just 38 percent of the county’s population, they were targeted from 2012 to 2017 in 77 percent of all arrests, 72 percent of citations, and 74 percent of arrests at traffic stops, the ACLU said.
Beadle, meanwhile, was stopped by then-Deputy Joseph Mangino. According to Mangino’s court testimony, he smelled marijuana as he walked up to Beadle’s vehicle and told him to get out of the car. When Beadle wouldn’t listen, Mangino says he tased him. While Mangino originally accused Beadle of resisting arrest, he later acknowledged in court that didn’t happen.
Mangino did find about 2.8 pounds of weed in the car, though Beadle claims he didn’t consent to a search of his vehicle. Plus, Beadle says he acquired the weed legally in Oregon. As a former college basketball player, Beadle says he smokes to relieve chronic pain in his knees.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, decided to charge him with drug trafficking. But they didn’t have a whole of evidence to back that up, aside from the fact that 2.8 pounds of marijuana is a lot for one person. The Ledger explains that Mangino “found no large sums of money, drug paraphernalia or weight measuring scale to substantiate the trafficking charge.” According to Mississippi Today, an assistant district attorney argued that references to “music” in text messages found on Beadle’s phone were actually code for the marijuana he was selling. However, those texts were not admitted as evidence.
Still, Beadle was convicted in July of drug trafficking. He faced up to 40 years behind bars, though Madison County Circuit Judge William Chapman opted to sentence him to eight years. Due to Mississippi state law, there’s no possibility of parole or probation, Chapman said. Beadle’s attorney, Cynthia Stewart, plans to appeal the sentence.
There are a few things worth noting about Beadle’s case. If he’s telling the truth, then it’s nothing short of tragic that he could spend eight years behind bars for traveling with weed he bought legally. It’s true that Oregon state law only allowspatients to possess up to 24 ounces of medical marijuana, so if he’d been caught in that state, he still would have likely been in violation of the law. His punishment, though, probably would have been considerably more lenient.
Even if Beadle obtained marijuana illegally, there’s not much evidence to suggest he was a drug dealer. And even if he there was evidence he was selling marijuana, eight years is a disproportionately long sentence. He did not harm a person nor damage any property. He and his family will lose nearly a decade of his life for the high crime of traveling through the wrong state with several pounds of dried plant matter in his car.
Residents of states that have legalized marijuana should know by now that crossing state lines with cannabis in their cars can be a problem. But I doubt even Beadle, who should’ve known that he was traveling with more marijuana than would be tolerated in just about any state, realized it could be this big a problem. His story illustrates the ridiculous disparity in marijuana laws across the U.S., and the need for reformers to keep pushing for change even as blue states get their recreational markets up and running.