Donnie Clark, 73, shares his real-life tale of growing marijuana and Myakka, FL in the 80s- and serving time after being caught. He talks exclusively with 10 News as the legalization of medical marijuana issue heats up in Florida.
Bradenton, Florida- "I never thought I'd live to see it legalized and now there's a heck of a momentum," said Donnie Clark.
The 73-year-old wants to keep that moment fueled as Floridians prepare to vote on the legalization of medical marijuana this November. So far, 20 states including DC have legalized the use of medical marijuana.
STORY: FL Supreme Court oks medical marijuana initiative for Nov. ballot
Donnie Clark spoke exclusively with 10 News.
In the 1980's Clark said he grew and sold marijuana in Myakka City and went to jail for it twice.
"Now they call it 'Myakka Gold', but not one of us called it 'Myakka Gold' back then. I called mine 'Myakky Wacky' because when you smoked it, you were wacky," laughed Clark.
He said he grew a potent version of pot.
In the 80's, Clark had a sod and watermelon farm where he grew the marijuana, but made sure it was out of sight.
"If you put it in the swamp, you're pretty good because there's nothing but water in there. You just have to watch out for moccasins and gators," recalled Clark.
Clark hid the plants so well he recalls smoking a joint along the swamp's edge and seeing law enforcement helicopters flying over head and not spotting them.
Why did Clark risk growing the illegal plant?
"Just the thrill of doing it. My life has always been that way. I like doing exciting things."
The business was a family affair. Clark said he would grow several plants for personal use, but one year he grew a 120-pound crop. He recalled a picture of his son after harvesting the leaves.
"My youngest son had a gator tail on one shoulder, a big bundle of pot [on the other shoulder] and he had a joint in his mouth."
Clark said they used to hide the money and the pot in PVC pipes.
After getting out of jail the first time in the mid 80's, Clark said he quit growing marijuana.
"I hated jail. When I got out of state jail I said 'I am never going back'. I quit growing it. I told my sons 'don't bring it around here'."
But in 1990 there was a large drug bust in Myakka City, and Clark was charged with conspiracy. He served 10 years in federal prison.
And according to Clark, his two sons and daughter-in-law were also arrested.
"We were on the family plan," he joked.
In 2001, President Bill Clinton commuted his life sentence and Clark was released.
And today, Clark is involved with the movement to legalize medical marijuana.
"If there's a market for it, you should legalize it and tax the hell out of it- people are going to do it anyhow."
Clark sees the federal government getting on board last. He believes it'll take each state's approval before the federal government is pressured to join in.
"It's all about money" and the pharmaceutical business's influence, he says.
While he supports recreational use, Clark says he's seen the benefits of using cannabis for medicinal purposes.
"The cannabis plant -- there's no plant on earth greater than that. A lot of people need it now. [They've] got epilepsy and diseases [and] they have to move to Colorado to get it," said Clark.
His one concern is making sure marijuana it stays out of the hands of kids and teens.
"What would be hard for me to swallow is young kids and stuff smoking it."
If marijuana is legalized, Clark would like to set up a hemp seed processing plant, and help Florida farmers grow hemp for clothing, paper and to be used as an additive for concrete.
"For these farmers it would be a blessing to grow it."
Clark has chronicled his life in a book called "Myakka Gold" a book he started writing in jail.
What does Donnie Clark want people to know about him after reading his book?
"I love life. I've had fun with it all my life, even though I went to prison and everything else," he said with a smile.
Is it a "tell all" book? According to Clark, it doesn't tell-all, just "...what I want to tell."
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