Former teen Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant and former prisoner Richard Wershe Jr.—known as “White Boy Rick”—spent 32 years of a life sentence for cocaine possession. Within weeks after being freed, Wershe teamed up with cannabis producer Pleasantrees to launch a brand called The 8th.
Anyone who has seen 2018’s White Boy Rick starring Matthew McConaughey knows the story: When Wershe was 14, he became an informant for the FBI—being forced to snitch on upper-level drug lords. He was the youngest FBI informant in U.S. history.
In the thick of the crack epidemic during the mid-80s, Wershe became deeply involved in the underbelly of the world of organized crime. Even though the FBI pushed him into that world working as an informant, Wershe was busted at age 17 for having eight kilos of cocaine.
“I took money that they gave me to buy drugs, I then took those drugs and sold them,” Wershe told VICE. “They taught me to be a drug dealer and I became a drug dealer.”
Wershe was slapped with a life sentence in 1988 despite being under 18 years old.
White Boy Rick’s New Life
Wershe—now 52—spent his entire adult life in prison, missing out on spending time with his dying father, among other events. He was finally released on good behavior from a halfway-house prison facility in Florida in July. On July 19, at 10:30 a.m., Wershe was picked up by his fiancée.
Wershe filed a $100 million lawsuit against former FBI agents and prosecutors—alleging child abuse in connection with his time spent as an informant. As a 14-16-year-old at the time of his informant days, he just might have a solid case.
He alleges that the only reason he got involved in cocaine sales was because the FBI coerced him into doing it. He claims drug lords attempted to assassinate him, on one occasion.
Wershe is finally free, and didn’t waste any time teaming up with Michigan-based producer Pleasantrees Cannabis Company to launch a brand called The 8th. The 8th is symbolic of both an eighth of weed and the Eighth Amendment—which in theory supposedly protects Americans against “cruel and unusual punishments.” Wershe obviously wasn’t a recipient of those protections, but he hopes to spread awareness about inhumane cases such as his own. The 8th will launch this fall, and will feature cannabis accessories and other products.
Wershe pointed out that life sentence for pot-related crimes are just as insane. “I’ve met people in federal prison doing life sentences for marijuana. I mean, it was tonnes, but you know it was still a plant. Life for a cannabis crime was a bit harsh.”
“I think we could release 50 percent of the people in our prison system and it wouldn’t make society any more dangerous because over 50 percent are non-violent offenders.”
Wershe does not in fact smoke weed, but strongly believes that the criminalization of drugs in America is corrupt, uninformed, and laws need to be changed so that people aren’t locked up in prison for nonviolent crimes.
He also said that big pharmaceutical companies are the real cartels. While ongoing lawsuits are fixing some of the problem, the people responsible for synthetic opioid deaths walk free, while a mid-level teen who sold cocaine had to spend his adult life in prison. “There’s been 500,000 deaths, $27 billion in fines. And not one person has been incarcerated,” He added.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.