Viewers of KTVA's Sunday night newscast learned all about the Alaska Cannabis Club, a medical marijuana group. And then, they learned something else: The reporter who presented the story to the station's viewers is also the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club.
Charlo Greene then quit her TV job on live television after promising to dedicate "all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska."
She added: "And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice, but, [expletive] it, I quit."
You can watch the full video, which contains Greene's explicit sign-off, here.
Although Greene told Alaska Dispatch News that her (former) employers had no idea she was going to quit on air, or that she ran the club she reported on, the Alaska Cannibis Club's Facebook page encouraged its followers to tune in for the Sunday broadcast.
"I wanted to draw attention to this issue. And the issue is medical marijuana," Greene told the Dispatch News after the broadcast. "If I offended anyone, I apologize. But I’m not sorry for the choice that I made."
Although it seems a bit redundant to fire an employee who already quit, KTVA, a CBS affiliate, wanted to make it crystal clear that it did not condone Greene's unexpected remarks on Sunday. Especially the swearing.
Viewers, we sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.
— KTVA 11 News (@ktva) September 22, 2014
As NBC-affiliated KTUU noted, Sunday's broadcast wasn't the first time Greene had reported on cannabis for the station, apparently even after the Alaska Cannibis Club's founding earlier this year.
In at least one earlier segment, Greene did not disclose her connection to the group:
KTUU reported that Greene's legal name is Charlene Egbe, which is listed as the name of the Alaska Cannabis Club's owner in the state's corporation records database. The group was founded on April 20.
Although search results point to a five-part KTVA series on cannabis that aired on the station starting on April 29, those pages are no longer available on the station's Web site. A cached, text-only version of the URLs still show the pieces, authored by Charlo Greene; some of the segments, like the one above, are still available on YouTube.
Alaska allows for legal, medical marijuana use, thanks to a 1998 ballot measure. Under the measure, patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, MS and other ailments are able to obtain approval to possess, use and grow small amounts of the substance as part of their treatment, with a doctor's certification.
But cannabis advocates in the state -- including Greene's club -- argue that the laws are too vague to safely and legally allow patients to access the substance, even with that approval. Under the current law, cardholders may possess a small amount of marijuana and grow a small number of plants for personal use or for other cardholders in the state.
That's where it gets trickier, advocates argue, because the law is quiet on how cardholders can actually buy what they need to grow the plant or otherwise obtain marijuana for medical use if they're unable to grow it themselves. In other words, a cardholder can grow marijuana for his or her own use (and give away the plant to other approved cardholders), but it's still not really legal to sell marijuana in Alaska.
Greene's club was the subject of an August Alaska Dispatch News story, which noted that the club's founder spoke to the paper "on the condition of anonymity, citing concern over potential repercussions from her employer." In the story, the founder (presumably Greene) explained how her club has set up something of a stop-gap, work-around to help get patients access to cannabis.
Instead of buying marijuana from a grower, club members agree to give "donations" covering the cost of growing the substance to the person growing the plants. Patient and supplier are then paired up, and the club steps out of the picture. Understandably, the Dispatch referred to this system as operating within a "legal gray area" in the state. Which is why Greene's club is trying to change Alaska's laws.
The state will vote on another marijuana measure in November: Ballot Measure 2 asks voters to approve a proposal that would "allow a person to possess, use, show, buy, transport, or grow set amounts of marijuana, with the growing subject to certain restrictions." If approved, the measure would implement a similar regulation process for marijuana to the one currently in place for the use and sale of alcohol.
Greene has set up an IndieGoGo page to collect donations for her group's marijuana advocacy work. Although she is clearly hoping that her high-profile resignation will draw positive attention to her campaign to support a measure that she believes will clarify and improve state laws on cannabis use, the measure's opponents see something else in the broadcast:
@VoteNo2AK i am very offended and want her jailed. she was most likely high on marijuana that's why she had such a psychotic outbreak.
— EmilMătăsăreanu (@aaronk_907) September 22, 2014
Washington and Colorado both have recreational marijuana laws on the books; in addition to Alaska, voters in the District of Columbia and Oregon will consider a recreational marijuana proposal in November.