Infamous pot outlaw turns focus to utilitarian hemp


Donnie Clark, right, shared a prison cell with his son Duane after both were convicted in a legendary marijuana bust.  HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE

Prison never bothered Donnie Clark, the pot-growing legend from the swamps of Myakka City whose mischievous life reads like the lyrics to a twangy country music song on a scratchy AM radio station.

He would take long naps in a cell he shared with his son, the younger inmates always treated him with respect, and he had nothing but time to devour all the books he could read.

Clark read over 750 while serving life without parole in a maximum security federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana in the 1990s. His crime: conspiracy to grow marijuana.

Ironically, one of the books he read was about President Clinton, who surprisingly commuted Clark’s sentence in 2001 and sent him back to Manatee County, where his first meal as a free man was cow intestines.

Another book Clark read in prison, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” opened Clark’s eyes to the many uses of industrial hemp. There was a time when Clark was one of the best marijuana growers in the country — the father of the infamous “Myakka Gold,” a strain so popular it was showcased in the centerfold of “High Times” magazine — but above all he was a highly skilled farmer, which is why he believes so strongly in industrial hemp.

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