“F*ck it. I quit.”
If you’ve ever worked at a job in your life, you’ve probably thought those words. Maybe they were even on the tip of your tongue. But most of us just suck it up and go on working; we have bills to pay, after all.
And then there’s what Charlo Greene did. In 2014, while working as a television journalist at an Alaska station and delivering a report on cannabis, she quit on-air with those four words and walked out of one life and into another. The clip went viral on the internet but the world soon forgot about Greene.
The Alaskan authorities however did not, and Greene is facing trial this fall on charges stemming from a raid on the Alaska Cannabis Club, the medical cannabis facility she had surreptitiously launched while working as a journalist and to which she devoted her life after quitting. Greene could face decades in prison if she is convicted.
“Legalization without criminal justice isn’t progress. It’s not reform. It’s dressing up prohibition in a way that allows people that are chosen to profit off of people who use it.”
The threat of prison has not silenced her voice. In fact, Greene has since moved to California and launched a daily cannabis newscast on YouTube, The Weed Show. Rather than ending her journalism career, the famous on-air resignation led Greene closer to her true calling—helping people and fighting for an issue that is close to her heart.
“A lot of people assume I was pissed off at someone. That wasn’t at all the case. That was in fact my favorite job I have had to date,” said Greene, whose legal name is Charlo Egbe. “What would have been more self-serving for me would have been to hang onto this career as opposed to pursuing the mission that I got into it for, which was to help people.”
Journalist to Activist
Greene, who grew up in Alaska, had only been working at KTVA for nine months, but she had become the go-to correspondent for anything and everything cannabis.
The state was voting in 2014 on whether to join a handful of other states in legalizing recreational cannabis, and Greene traveled around the state and to other states that had passed legalization, reporting on the issue.
She was no stranger to cannabis, being a recreational consumer since college, but she was still shocked and saddened as she learned what obstacles Alaskans seeking medical cannabis had to face. Though it had long been legal for medicinal purposes, the state never created a system for patients to obtain cannabis. She even met one patient in her 70s whose doctor had suggested she stroll through back alleys looking for a dealer.
“Just hearing those stories, it made sense that I use the platform I had to help this community of people, especially up in Alaska, where we had legalized it but hadn’t created any sort of structure for these patients to get medicine. This was why I became a journalist,” she said.
Journalistic impartiality be damned, she went one step further and opened the Alaska Cannabis Club, where patients could meet other patients and share cannabis. For six months, she balanced a 10-hours-a-day job and being “the secret cannabis lady.” She was even writing press releases for the club, sending them to the TV station and then covering the story, knowing it would get her fired instantly if the bosses found out.
A few weeks before the vote on legalization in the fall of 2014, Greene decided to quit in her very dramatic fashion, hoping it would draw attention to the issue. “I decided to use my exit as a way to draw as much attention to the vote. Knowing I was kamikazeing my own career over this, I wanted to make use of my exit to achieve what I set out to do, which was legalize cannabis in Alaska and make medical marijuana real for all of the patients I serviced,” she said.
Greene traveled the state stumping in favor of legalization, and on November 4, the state that had once elected Sarah Palin as governor voted to legalize recreational cannabis by a 53-47 margin.
After the vote was certified, Greene reopened her club, which she described as “a private patients association.” She told CULTURE she thought she was operating under the law, based on her extensive interviews with state and local authorities about what would be allowed under the new legislation.
Authorities felt otherwise, and the club was raided in 2015, with a show of force worthy of a take-down of a Colombian cartel.
“I was shocked they would use drug war-era tactics, like the battering ram, the 12 armed, masked officers in SWAT gear, coming in and putting guns in everyone’s faces,” she said.
Even worse, she later learned she was being charged with enough felonies to send her to prison for 54 years. She has pleaded not guilty and strongly believes authorities targeted her because of her public support for legalization.
Her case, she said, exposes the flaws of Alaska’s legalization efforts. “We learned afterwards it was more commercialization versus legalization. We definitely did it the wrong way, otherwise I wouldn’t be in the position I am,” Greene said. “Legalization without criminal justice isn’t progress. It’s not reform. It’s dressing up prohibition in a way that allows people that are chosen to profit off of people who use it.”
While awaiting trial, Greene has since moved to California, which after the 2016 election is ground zero of cannabis legalization. In late 2016, she launched The Weed Show to provide a daily visual news source on all things cannabis, with subjects ranging from “How to Grow 25 Pounds of Weed a Day” to “Weed and Sex” to “End the War On Us.” She has also launched a line of skin care products, CBD Body and Beauty.
In a way, Greene has come full circle. And she has no regrets about anything, despite the pending trial.
“I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently, what I would do differently,” she said. “It just sucks, the position I’m in now.”