Charlo Greene – whose real name is Charlene Egbe – was a reporter who worked for KTVA. She memorably resigned from the station on live television after announcing that she was the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, which was the subject of her report. She is now facing criminal drug charges that could see her imprisoned for the rest of her life.
It was the 21st of September in 2014 when Charlo Greene, then 26 years old, quit her job as a television reporter in the most dramatic of fashions. While live on the air, and reporting on cannabis and US drug policy, she outed herself as the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club.
She then went onto say, “And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f*ck it, I quit.”
Front and Centre
Unsurprisingly, Greene’s manner of resignation went viral across the US and further afield with almost 14 million views on YouTube. KTVA quickly issued an apology for her salty language which read, “Viewers, we sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.”
Presumably they meant that her contract had been terminated, as Greene – very much un-terminated herself – went on to become a figurehead for the legalization movement in the state of Alaska.
However, as admirable as it was that she decided to stop reporting on drug policy and start advocating for change, things have taken something of a turn for the worse.
You see, a 2014 law that legalized the manufacture, sale, and possession of cannabis in Alaska only came into effect in February of 2015. At that moment in time, the regulations surrounding retail operations for cannabis businesses had not yet been finalized. This put Greene’s business in violation of the law.
The Alaska Cannabis Club
Greene’s business operated by selling “memberships” to people, supplying marijuana to those who made “donations.” In a summary for an IndieGoGo crowdfund campaign, she explained the motivation for leaving her journalistic career behind:
“I just quit my news reporting job on live TV to announce that I am redirecting all of my energy toward helping to end a failed drug policy that has ruined the lives of far too many Americans.”
Yet it wasn’t long before law enforcement in the state began scrutinizing the Club, with detectives making six undercover purchases and conducting two raids, seizing more than $20k worth of marijuana at the club between March and August of 2015.
Speaking to the Guardian, Greene’s 26-year-old sister, Jennifer Egbe, said that she felt violated when it came to light that they were being watched for so long. Jennifer, who helped out with the Club, went on to say, “I was really just heartbroken. I never assumed it would go this far.”
Greene added, “I saw all my siblings…with these guns that my tax dollars paid for pointed at them for what was now legal.”
Although Charlo Greene was not involved in any of the undercover transactions, she has been found criminally responsible. This is because the business is registered under her name.
In 2015, she was charged with four counts of felony controlled substance misconduct along with four misdemeanors, which, combined, could put her behind bars for 24 years. But it was to get worse for the former Alaska news anchor as an additional six counts could result in a staggering 54-year prison sentence.
Of her upcoming trial, Greene said, “It’s almost dizzying when you try to make sense of it. It could literally cost me the rest of my adult life.”
A Disproportional Response?
In a recent blog post, Greene described her situation as a “modern-day lynching,” language made all the more evocative when you put a face to the name – Charlo Greene is a striking and beautiful black woman.
As the American Civil Liberties Union contends, there appears to be significant racial disparities when it comes to sentencing in the United States. Blacks who are charged with drug offences often receive longer sentences than their white counterparts.
This is something that must have been quite far from the mind of Greene when she embarked upon her new role as a public advocate for cannabis legalization.
She was inspired to launch the Alaska Cannabis Club in 2014 when her job as a journalist took her to Colorado and Washington to report on their booming cannabis industries. During these trips, she came to appreciate the intricacies of the weed culture, which was becoming so prominent in these two states.
At that moment in time, recreational marijuana laws were still being considered in her home state, and Greene says that she gained a real insight of, and appreciation for, the potential benefits of medical marijuana for those suffering from chronic illnesses.
And as she met people in Alaska suffering with similar illnesses, she knew she had to do something. Although medical marijuana was legal in the state, it was particularly difficult to obtain. The more she heard from these people, the more she felt compelled to take action to improve the situation.
So What Now?
Although Alaska became one of only four US states (the others being Colorado, Washington, and Oregon) to legalize recreational marijuana in addition to medical marijuana, the timelines surrounding Greene – and her very public resignation – have left her fighting for her freedom.
The “f*ck it” moment earned her a lot of attention and support from others within various legalization movements. And she suggests it might have tipped the balance in favor of legalization when it went to vote in 2014. But it may just have put a target on her back at the same time.
Charlo Greene has entered a plea of not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in the coming months.
What do you think of Charlo Greene’s case? Did she bring scrutiny upon herself due to the manner of her resignation? Or is the former Alaska news anchor being unfairly pursued for something that is now legal?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.