Friday, September 7, 2018

The Prisoners Left Behind


The Prisoners Left Behind

How Barack Obama’s clemency operation failed thousands of drug offenders, some serving long sentences for cannabis crimes, and left them at the mercy of Donald Trump’s whims.
The last full day of Barack Obama’s presidency sent years of hopes crashing down for John Richard Knock. On January 19, 2017, Knock sat in his federal prison cell in the middle of Pennsylvania, waiting for a letter. He listened to a small radio that played an NPR station’s reporting on the state’s recently adopted medical marijuana program. For Knock, the report felt like bitter irony: For years, he had watched as cannabis investors began to reel in money for the same activities that had put him behind bars twenty-one years earlier.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

July 20,2018 In the New York Times there was an Op-Ed by David  Leondhart encouraging new studies about the safety of marijuana. 

My question is why.  Over the last 30 years there have been literally tens of thousands of studies done by academic institutions, criminal justice policy organizations, medical research institutes, not for profit groups and the federal government. 

You may pick and choose the results that fit your agenda.  No matter what your agenda is, you will find a study that supports it.  In the meantime, there are over 550,000 arrests per year for marijuana offenses.  Although they are not all charged and prosecuted, this interface with law enforcement is often the first encounter for young people and severely compromises their future.

It is estimated that marijuana prohibition may cost up to $ 42 billion dollars per year to investigate, arrest, prosecute and incarcerate.  That does not include the cost of the constant studies funded by government to examine the effects of marijuana use.  What is the purpose of this obsession to study, control and punish those who use this substance that has been legalized to some degree by over 30 states?

The most unfathomable fact about marijuana prohibition is that it still remains on the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule I drug.  This is a classification that tells us that marijuana is more dangerous than OxyContin, fentanyl and methamphetamine all of which are Schedule II drugs.  All our federal government agencies and regulatory bodies apparently see no contradiction to this official designation. 

There are nonviolent people serving sentences of life without parole for marijuana   offences.  This is happening at the same time that hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in marijuana business enterprises.  Those doing the investing include past and present elected officials. This is a contradiction that is not fiscally responsible and does not speak to justice and respect for the law.

It appears that the constant data demands never result in action.  Administrative agencies and regulatory bodies have researched, studied, set standards and procedures and recommended change throughout this time.  They have been focused on gaining control and making recommendations that are minuscule and have to be studied and amended and approved by other regulators and agencies till there is no space for actual reform. 
In the meantime, the power of the justice department and law enforcement agencies continues to grow and expand as does the prison population.  This is why I don't fear major disruption of federal agencies. They have failed in the most profound way to assure that there is not egregious prosecution, sentencing and incarceration for marijuana and all other nonviolent drug offenders.

There are many stake holders who would like to maintain the status quo.  They are public employees, law enforcement and prison private contractors, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol and spirits enterprises and surprisingly not for profit and for profit organizations with contracts for recovery and re-entry. 

There may be many reasons to continue to study the risks of marijuana and do nothing to make the law compatible with reality, but I maintain the major factor is economic.  Marijuana prohibition is a big government program.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Attorney General Eric Holder testifying in 2012 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He served as AG from 2009 to 2015.
Mark Wilson / Getty

Eric Holder May Be Considering a Presidential Run. But Has His Time Passed?  

As voters begin to realize that prosecutors in the world's most incarcerated nation may not be the best people to run the government, the era of the prosecutor politician could be on its way out. 

Eric Holder’s recent visit to New Hampshire has sparked speculation that he might mount a presidential run in 2020.
During a June 1 visit  at the “Politics and Eggs” series at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, the former U.S. attorney general blasted gerrymandering—“I think our democracy is under attack”—but puzzlingly endorsed the restrictive voter registration law that New Hampshire Republicans have pushed through the state legislature that now awaits review in the state’s highest court.

Monday, June 11, 2018

This gives hope for all the nonviolent marijuana offenders serving sentences of Life for Pot.

Trump asks for clemency names and lists promptly arrive at White House

President Trump told reporters Friday that he wanted to give clemency to more people treated unfairly by the legal system, particularly cases involving people like Alice Johnson, who he released from a life sentence for drug dealing at the request of Kim Kardashian West.
"I want to do people that are unfairly treated like an Alice," he said before boarding a Marine helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House. Hours later, lists of additional names were hand-delivered to the West Wing.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


  • WASHINGTON — For those who view the Justice Department’s pardon system as slow and sclerotic, with its backlog of more than 11,000 cases, they need only look to the case of Matthew Charles.
    Mr. Charles was sentenced in 1996 to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine. In prison, he took college classes, became a law clerk and taught fellow inmates. He was released early, in 2016, and began rebuilding his life, volunteering at a food pantry and even falling in love.

    Thursday, April 5, 2018


     Opinion Piece - Life for Pot

    On the first day of market trading for the New Year, CNBC interspersed programing with positive stories of the new California cannabis businesses.  They covered a broad range of the issues startups would face, but the common theme was prosperity and hope.  Sam Masucci talked about the new marijuana ETF, Marcus Lemonis explored the marijuana business in Humbolt County for The Profit. 

    I was ushering in the New Year trying to give hope to people serving life in prison for selling marijuana while Jane Wells, Kate Rogers and Aditi Roy were convincing listeners that California’s cannabis commerce would bring promised affluence.  As the day wore on, the juxtaposition was as incredible as my conclusion – today’s cannabis business plan is yesterday’s marijuana conspiracy.  Life without parole is death by imprisonment.  The people I advocate for, nonviolent marijuana lifers will die in prison while a “new industry” in cannabis takes root.

    We hoped that this category of nonviolent prisoner would all receive commutations at the end of the last administration, but they did not.  They are aging in Federal Prisons around the country while they watch the product they are incarcerated for become a main stream commodity and a source of profit for individuals as well as local and state governments. 

    Part of the conundrum and the most interesting aspect is marijuana remains on the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970 as a Schedule 1 Drug.  The characteristic of a Schedule 1 drug are: 1. The drug has a high potential for abuse. 2. The drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. 3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.1.  

    This antiquated Schedule ranks marijuana as more dangerous than OxyContin or Fentanyl.  When criminal law cynically ignores the cultural reality, it can only lead to disrespect for the law and those who attempt to enforce it. According to Federal Code, All Cannabis Business Enterprises are Criminal.

    Marijuana prohibition costs 42 billion dollars per year to enforce. 2.  There are up to 500,000 arrests per year by local, state and federal law enforcement.  This is an enormous government program. 3.  Billions of tax dollars are wasted every year on an incoherent policy that could repair a lot of failing bridges.  The fix isn’t complicated.  Removing marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule and allowing it to be regulated like alcohol is the answer.  States are moving in this direction regardless of federal law.

    The marijuana prisoners I advocate for are serving life because they were charged with “conspiracy” and became accountable for drugs sold by others, even people they had never met or known. Conspiracy charges hold them responsible for acts that occurred over a period of years and involve many people.  Another common thread is they didn’t plead guilty and chose to exercise their right to a trial.  Legal experts call it the trial penalty.  Key witnesses are usually co-defendants who accept a plea and receive less prison time, government agents, and even witnesses that are testifying for a fee. 

    These marijuana prisoners all have names and life stories.  They have mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, siblings and children who all have suffered and wonder why there is no mercy.  Their family time is spent traveling to a Federal Prison, being searched and processed, sometimes drug tested, then sitting in a large visiting room with only two hugs allowed and lunch from a vending machine.  We are paying dearly for this in federal treasure and human dignity.  I would like to tell them that they will have a chance to be home with their family before they die.  They have been entrapped in a gigantic failed social experiment and their release would bring it all to a harmonious conclusion.

    These sentences are not fiscally responsible and are not compatible with our sense that we are a nation of compassion, mercy and justice.  These nonviolent marijuana offenders with life need sentencing relief either through executive clemency or retroactive legislation.  


    Thursday, January 18, 2018

     Life for Pot  is   
    Life for Cannabis

    Marijuana Prohibition is a Big Government Program


    Decriminalizing marijuana is an act that has support on both sides of the political spectrum.  
    Two Executive Actions that can save up to $42 Billion a year that could be spent on infrastructure and prevent 500,00 
    arrests per year
    I. Executive Actions

        A. Group or Category Clemency – Amnesty for all nonviolent
             federal marijuana inmates who have served 10 years for
             a marijuana only offense

                1. Model this initiative on Gerald Ford’s Clemency
                    initiative for those who violated the Selective Service Act
                2. Grant commutations by creating a board within the White
                     House using Gerald Ford's model.

         B. Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act’s
              schedule and regulate it like alcohol

    II. Desired Objective
          A. De scheduling marijuana may save up to $42 Billion
               dollars a year in enforcement, prosecution and incarceration
          B.  It would prevent up to 500,000 arrests per year
          C. Make billions of dollars available annually for infrastructure

    III. Rational
          A. Over 29 states and the District of Columbia have
               legalized cannabis to some degree
          B. Over 70% if the population believes that marijuana should    
               not be criminalized
          C. This is an item that has bi-partisan support

    IV. The cannabis business is growing exponentially.  Like all
           successful business enterprises it is based on the knowledge
           and experience of past entrepreneurs 

    V.   It has become increasingly incongruous to have Cannabis
           business plans being implemented for a product that has
           given others a sentence of life without parole

    VI. Challenges to overcome – Those who are financially
           dependent on maintaining this administrative designation of
           A. Public Employees Unions for law enforcement, 
                correction officers, etc.

           B. Businesses with vendor contracts for prisons and law

           C. Pharmaceutical companies

           D. Lobbyists for businesses and non-profits with
                government contracts for re-entry and recovery

           E. Lobbyists for alcohol and spirits

    Regulating marijuana like alcohol will save up to
    $ 42 billion that can be used to rebuild our aging infrastructure
    It will prevent up to 500,000 arrests per year

    Today’s Cannabis Business Plan

    Yesterday’s Marijuana Conspiracy

    The War on Drugs is a Big Government Program