Pope Francis Will Meet A Guy Locked Up For Selling Pot

"It's like going to jail for getting caught with some liquor."

PHILADELPHIA -- When Pope Francis visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia on Sunday morning, he'll meet a man who has spent a year and a half behind bars for attempting to sell a plant at the center of a booming industry that has brought in millions in tax revenue to states where it has been legalized.

Ed Gilchrist, 43, said he was locked up after he tried to sell 7 pounds of marijuana to undercover officers in Northeast Philadelphia. This was his first marijuana charge. He reached a plea deal back in February and says he should get out in about a month.

Ryan J. Reilly / The Huffington Post

"Somebody just set me up with them. Somebody introduced me to them, I think somebody trying to get out of some trouble or somebody trying to get out of a DUI or something stupid like that," he said.

Gilcrist said he'd been selling marijuana for a long time before he was caught. Court records show that, until his arrest in 2014, he hadn't been charged with anything since 1994.

"I've been doing it for, you know" -- he gestured to just above his waist, indicating his height when he was younger -- "since forever," Gilchrist said.

"Somebody I knew just said, 'Hey, this is a friend of mine,'" he said. "The guy who he introduced me to was actually a cop, because he was looking to get out of whatever jam he was in, and I got caught up in it."

Gilchrist says it's a bit frustrating that he's behind bars for selling a drug that others are able to sell legally and that President Barack Obama has said is no more harmful than alcohol.

"It kind of ticks you off. But I knew it was illegal before I started. I knew the game," he said.

"They're going to be looking back at it in 20 years and say, 'That guy actually did time for selling marijuana?' and feel how stupid it is," Gilchrist said. "It's like going to jail for getting caught with some liquor. People used to go to jail for that."

Gilchrist has no plans to get back into the marijuana industry -- say, by moving to Colorado -- once he gets out.

"I've just got to get a 9-to-5," he said.

In his speech before Congress on Thursday, Pope Francis said that “just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation." His prison visit has been in the works for months, and inmates have built him a chair to sit on. He is expected to meet with about 100 prisoners and their families.

Pope Francis has put a focus on prisoners in other parts of the world as well, even washing the feet of inmates in Rome earlier this year.

Support HuffPost

Popular in the Community