Sister of cancer patient caught with 42 pounds of pot edibles pleads for clemency: ‘We don’t feel that the punishment... should be his life’

Thomas Franzen could be released from prison as early as June of 2021 but family members say he could be dead before that.

SHARE Sister of cancer patient caught with 42 pounds of pot edibles pleads for clemency: ‘We don’t feel that the punishment... should be his life’
Thomas J. Franzen

Kane County state’s attorney’s office

The sister of an incarcerated cancer patient caught with 42 pounds of cannabis-infused chocolates claimed he will likely die before he’s paroled as she pleaded for his release during a clemency hearing Wednesday at the Thompson Center.

Thomas Franzen, 37, could be granted supervised release from Stateville Correctional Center as early as June of 2021. During the hearing of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Franzen’s sister Anissa Leifheit was asked if she thinks he can make it that long, prompting a somber response: “I do not. Not at the rate he is going.”

“The punishment should fit the crime, but our worst fears have now been made,” she added. “We don’t feel that the punishment to fit the crime should be his life.”

Franzen was arrested in 2014 when authorities intercepted a package containing more than 42 pounds of THC-infused chocolates that was sent to his home in Montgomery, according to the Kane County state’s attorney office. He ultimately pleaded guilty May 30 to a felony count of cannabis possession and agreed to serve a four-year prison sentence.

The following day, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation to lift the statewide prohibition on recreational marijuana that was championed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Franzen is now seeking a pardon from Pritzker, who will review his petition and the recommendations of the review board.

On Wednesday, Leifheit explained that Franzen was first diagnosed with cancer when he was just a teenager. While he has had periods of remission, Leifheit explained that her brother has lost a kidney, part of a lung and two feet of intestines during his decades-long battle with the disease.

Attorney David Camic noted that Franzen “has taken a turn for the worse” since he was sent to prison, claiming the medical treatment has been inadequate and his client hasn’t been given certain medications he needs.

“We’re asking you to allow him to get the medical care so that he can survive,” Camic said.

Despite Camic and Leifheit claiming that Franzen planned to use the edibles to self-medicate, his intentions were called into question by board member Salvador Diaz.

“Allegedly he was a pretty serious dealer of edible marijuana and narcotics products throughout the country,” Diaz said, citing a letter Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney William Engerman sent to the review board.

Engerman, who urged the board to deny the petition, wrote that Franzen “was conducting a business selling various forms of cannabis out of his home.” 

Among other evidence, Engerman noted that officers found a handgun, cocaine, marijuana, packaging materials and a scale. Additionally, officers recovered $2,275 in cash, a “drug ledger” and receipts that showed Franzen was both sending packages to and receiving them from multiple states.

Camic and Leifheit rebuffed some of those allegations.

“I understand the severity of what he did,” Leifheit said. “But with that being said, this is how he can manage himself. He is in severe pain.”

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