PA Doctor Jailed for Growing Pot – Now, It’s Legal

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jun 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

In the early hours of April 23, 2014, ophthalmologist Paul Ezell was awakened by police. They'd been tipped off about his personal marijuana plant collection downstairs and were there to arrest him. Ezell, who had begun growing to treat his dying wife's pain, was shocked – “Are you sure you aren't making a mistake?” he asked the arresting officers.

But there was no mistake. In 2014, marijuana possession, use, and distribution were still very much illegal. The doctor was sentenced to 23 months in prison. He also lost his medical license and tarnished his previously immaculate record. Though she had nothing to do with his grow operation, his daughter also spent several days in jail. Just living on the premises with the plants in question caused her to lose her nursing license.

Paved with Good Intentions

Dr. Ezell began growing marijuana plants after his wife was diagnosed with progressive spinal disease and scoliosis. She quickly began abusing the opiates prescribed to her for the pain. Though he made efforts to control her drug use, she would quickly develop tolerances to the opiates. Dr. Ezell did what many people do when looking for relief for their loved ones: he began researching alternative treatments.

Rather than risk dealing with street dealers, Dr. Ezell learned to grow marijuana plants himself. He took his yields and baked them into edible treats his wife could enjoy since she didn't like to smoke. Dr. Ezell also admits selling cannabis to friends and colleagues.

Tragically, Dr. Ezell's efforts weren't enough to save his wife. She overdosed on opiates while reading in bed in 2013.

A Nation Evolving

Cannabis use is no longer the taboo it once was. Silicon Valley-based startups have transformed the former back alley sales deals into a thriving billion-dollar industry. As American attitudes about pot evolve, our laws need time to catch up. Though possession of the drug is now legal in a majority of states, cannabis is still prohibited by the federal government. This push and pull between the states and the feds has resulted in a legal gray area.

Ezell served six months for his crimes. He applied for a pardon and was released on good behavior. Still, the damage has been done. Once a successful physician, he's lost his license and now works as an office administrator. Ezell accepts responsibility for his actions but told reporters he did what he did to help his wife.

Criminal Defense for Cannabis Possession

Unfortunately, Ezell's story is all too common. He's just one of countless people locked up for possession of cannabis over the last 50 years. As legalization efforts sweep the nation, there will be more legal debates about the fates of people like Ezell. Only time will tell how such innocuous possession and use of the drug will impact individuals like him.

Cannabis laws are changing. If you have a drug charge on your record you're hoping to expunge, it's important to talk to an experienced advisor. Schedule your confidential consultation with our Criminal Law Team online now, or call our office at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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