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March 31, 1949 - Actor Robert Mitchum Released from Jail After Serving Sentence for Pot Possession

This Day in Cannabis History:

Robert Mitchum was a Hollywood heartthrob with a "bad boy" reputation, especially when it came to marijuana. At a time when reefer madness was still at its height, the actor was known for his daily cannabis use...reportedly walking around with a joint behind his ear on many occasions, and even boasting that he had weed growing in the hills near his home. Unsurprisingly, his brazen love of the herb must have rustled the feathers of Narcotics officers, who decided to make an example of him.

On August 31, 1948, Mitchum was enjoying a joint with a few female companions at a friend's house in Laurel Canyon when police suddenly barged through the door and arrested everyone. The arrest was part of a sting operation to capture high-profile Hollywood partiers as well, but Mitchum and Leeds did not receive the tip-off. The fact that they knew where and when to catch him in the act, not to mention that the press happened to be waiting for them all when they arrived at the police station, led Mitchum and others to suspect foul play.

He was tried on January 18, pled no contest, and found guilty on two charges: possessing and conspiring to possess marijuana. On Wednesday, February 9, the judge sentenced him to a year in county jail, but then suspended the sentence and instead gave him two years probation and just 60 days in county jail (minus the time already in custody). Mitchum served the next 43 days at Sheriff’s Honor Farm prison farm in Castaic, California, where Life magazine photographed him in his prison garb mopping up a cell. He was then transferred to Los Angeles County Jail, where he spent the last week before being released on this day in 1949.

At the time of his arrest, Mitchum reportedly said, “Well, this is the bitter end of everything—my career, my marriage, everything.” Turns out, he couldn't have been more wrong: due to the buzz created by his legal troubles, his next few films did even better at the box office. He was right about one thing, though—his suspicion about foul play regarding the arrest. On January 31, 1951—two years after his trial—the arrest was exposed as a setup and his conviction was overturned.


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