Michael Biskey, south Mpls resident, could get 10 years for having a bunch of pot in his garage


At about 11 p.m. on June 14, police were patrolling an alley in between Harriet and Grand avenues in south Minneapolis. There had been a robbery in the area earlier that day.

While driving down the alley, they came across a man keying into a locked garage door. He was wearing a large camping backpack, and officers decided to stop and see what he was up to.

By the time police approached the garage, the man was inside. But officers could smell a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the structure. The man, later identified as 55-year-old Michael Biskey, eventually opened the garage door, and police ordered him to get outside. Officers then searched the garage, but they didn't have to work too hard -- on a table right in front of them were several large bags of pot, with more plastic bags visible inside the backpack, which was also sitting on the table.

Police found more ganja in a barrel in front of the table. In total, they found four pounds of pot in the garage.

Biskey was arrested and charged with fifth-degree drug possession, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for a repeat offender. A Southwest Patch analysis piece notes that most people arrested for possession-related crimes are charged with a fifth-degree offense, yet very few actually serve prison time.

Said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman: "Nobody gets [the maximum sentence]. They almost never do real time for low-level stuff."

Minnesota has a two-strikes-and-you're-in-the-slammer law when it comes to drug possession.
Minnesota has a two-strikes-and-you're-in-the-slammer law when it comes to drug possession.

"Small-time users simply shouldn't get time," Freeman added. "It just doesn't make sense."

But get busted for pot possession more than once and the story changes. Minnesota statute says "if a person is guilty of a controlled substance crime in the fifth degree and the conviction is a subsequent controlled substance conviction, the person convicted shall be committed to the commissioner of corrections or to a local correctional authority for not less than six months nor more than ten years." (italics mine)

In 2010, Biskey was convicted in Carlton County District Court for possessing a "not small amount" of marijuana. So if he's convicted for a second time in connection with his June 14 arrest, he's facing at least six months in prison, if not more.

And all this because the greying, long-haired 55-year-old happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking suspicious enough while entering his garage that police decided to stop and check him out.

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