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Man sentenced to 22 years for cannabis possession receives commuted sentence

Robert Franklin to be released in July
Robert Franklin.jpg
Posted at 4:48 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 18:42:10-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Robert Franklin calls Christina Frommer from the Moberly Correctional Center just about every day.

Frommer is with the Canna Convict Project. Franklin a cannabis convict, who was facing 22 years in prison without the possibility of parole for possession.

Franklin spoke with 41 Action News about that experience.

"It's changed me for the better and changed me for the worst," Franklin told 41 Action News over the phone. "When I first got incarcerated, I was angry. I was sad. I was devastated. I just felt ignorant."

Robert Franklin
Robert Franklin

His mindset has changed over the last several years with Frommer and Canna Convict Project's help and a big piece of news he never thought was possible: He's getting out on parole after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson commuted his sentence in May.

"Whenever I found out, my heart dropped to my stomach. I didn't know what was going on at first, they had to explain it to me twice!" Franklin said.

The Missouri Department of Corrections told 41 Action News Franklin will be released sometime in July.

Frommer said it's possible he'll be on probation for five years.

She can only speculate, but she believes sending stacks of letters to Governor Parson's office advocating for Franklin made this happen.

"I think it says a lot that the public's mindset is changing and our constant encouragement to our representatives to change their mindset as well is working," Frommer said.

Franklin was arrested in Saline County, Missouri, in 2007 after he tossed a pound of cannabis out his car window during a traffic stop.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper said Franklin had taken off in his Jeep with another person in the vehicle after he was initially stopped, then pulled over again where he was arrested.

Franklin was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Franklin had prior drug offenses, which bumped up his sentence to 22 years with no parole.

A Missouri statute that outlined harsher penalties for prior and persistent drug offenders was repealed in 2017, but it didn't provide any retroactive help to people like Franklin.

He and Frommer say 22 years without parole for a non-violent crime is too extreme.

"There's a lot of disparity in sentencing and especially with minorities. And he's a minority who got caught in a small town and they threw the book at him," Frommer said.

Robert Franklin in prison
Robert Franklin in prison

Franklin said what he needed at the time was help, not prison.

"They sent me to a level five prison. That's why I was afraid because I was around people with ultra violent cases," Franklin said. "We need a big push for prison reform because sending people to prison is not really the answer."

Franklin, now 40, says he's a different person now. He's ready to work and excited to start his life.

But there's one thing at the top of his list.

"Hug my daughter, give her a kiss on the forehead. Tell her I'm here, I love her and I'll never leave her side again," Franklin said.