LIFE FOR POT http://www.lifeforpot.com
THESE PEOPLE WERE ALL SENTENCED TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR NONVIOLENT MARIJUANA OFFENCES
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Government Agencies, Educational Institutions, Advocacy Groups, Foundations or the Cannabis Industry.
We are Free to Rant
The criminal justice system and the cannabis industry will not have integrity as long as nonviolent marijuana offenders are still serving egregious sentences for cannabis.
Scrolling through social media each morning has become uncomfortable, disturbing and dare I say enraging. Algorithms have found my niche and feed me their hook.
There are the usual legal and sentencing feeds. Next come the more hopeful advocacy sites and champions for freedom. Ultimately the cannabis industry research, ads and promotions speak their newfound voice imploring me to buy, promote, invest and lobby for their investment. This niche of social media now asks for lobbying to oil the skids for a business plan.
My mind quickly shifts to Hector McGurk, Ismael Lira, Pedro Moreno and Parker Coleman. These are four individuals – and there are many more – who are destined to die in Federal Prison for a nonviolent marijuana only offense; how does this compute? Not one nonviolent marijuana offender in Federal Prison will be released by Biden’s recent announcement about pardoning simple marijuana possession.
They will not receive freedom from bills that ask for expungement of records for marijuana offenses for those already released. They will not be released by bills that request that they are able to go back to the court. They need clemency as a category from President Biden. Perhaps they will have some relief if Congress puts language in a bill that retroactively reduces their sentence, but the process will be messy.
My runway is short, and I know the landscape has changed in the last 30 years. In 1994 my brother, John Knock, was indicted for a marijuana conspiracy. It was nonviolent and he was a first-time offender. Although there were no victims and there was not a single physical piece of marijuana presented as evidence, in 2000 he was sentenced to two life terms plus twenty years.
I immediately began looking for other nonviolent marijuana only offenders who were labeled “marijuana kingpins” and were given life without parole. In the late 80s there were a few, but these sentences began to soar in the 90s. After the 1994 Clinton Crime Bill there were many. This bill was 365 pages long and included money for 100,000 more police and almost 10 billion dollars for more prisons. They had to be filled.
In 2008 John’s appeals had all been denied and I began contacting the people in prison who fit the criteria of nonviolent marijuana only serving life without parole. I put their stories on a web site Life for Pot. There were many – John Knock, Larry Duke, Eugene Fischer, Paul Free, Randy Lanier, Billy Dekle, Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda, Charles Cundiff and the list goes on. There were also people in State Prisons like Jeff Mizanskey and Richard DeLisi
I needed to advocate for the category: marijuana only with no violent charges. The web site went up and I received messages that I was wrong, they could not be nonviolent marijuana only. Everyone believed there was a dead body somewhere. Other messages from sentencing reform advocates said that the category was too exclusive. Others objected to the words pot and marijuana. I was told that I should only refer to it as cannabis. I responded: “If you are locked in an 8X10 cage with another person you don’t care what it is called.” They know the strength of the current and it is not language. Watching this evolution of the legal cannabis business while serving life without parole and other egregious sentences for the same product has to enrage you.
I’ve purchased cannabis stocks and watched as they thrive and also disappear. Tens of millions of dollars are spent lobbying for the industry and protecting the turf that is the product – medical and recreational. Lobbyists for the industry can be found in the halls of Congressional Office Buildings hoping to help craft the hundreds of bills that are introduced.
Congress and advocacy groups have selected many categories for advocating and legislating sentencing relief e.g., crack cocaine disparity, juveniles, women, disadvantaged minorities etc. but the category of marijuana has not been addressed.
Beth Curtis MSW
Life for Pot http://www.lifeforpot.com http://lifeforpot.blogspot.com