Sunday, May 15, 2022

MARIJUANA LAW AND POLICY - Douglas Berman

 


California’s 1996 ballot initiative protecting medical marijuana users from state criminal prosecution kicked off the modern marijuana reform era in the United States.  In part due to federal prohibition, state medical marijuana laws prompted an array of interesting and intricate legal questions.  Some issues concerned the reach of federal law after state reforms.  Could doctors be punished by federal authorities for recommending marijuana to patients consistent with state law? 

 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Life for Pot

 



Thank you Eiliana Wright 




Read about a life well-lived…

…and an unexpected romance.

BONUS: At bottom of story, meet some of the people she helped free from life sentences for marijuana.

By Eiliana Wright
Harm Reduction Ohio Journalism Intern
Denison University ’22

Every year, during each national holiday, Beth Curtis of Zanesville, Ohio, places a stack of cards on her otherwise cluttered work desk. On the front of each card are photos of people who have been sentenced to a life in prison for marijuana.

The addresses on the envelopes belong to senators, state representatives and lobbyists that Curtis wants to nudge towards the goal of marijuana legalization and lowered marijuana sentences.

Curtis, now 80, and founder of the national advocacy group Life for Pot, has been working from her home in Zanesville for 28 years with the mission to set marijuana lifers free. In that time, the “Mother Theresa of Pot Prisoners” has had success in helping to free more than 25 previously incarcerated marijuana offenders. While she’s undoubtedly changed the lives of many people, her life has also been altered in the process. Her dedication has brought both love and heartbreak through the people she’s come to know who have been at the mercy of a system plagued by hypocrisy and injustice.

Curtis’ unique strategy to bring attention to her cause is one based on love, attention to detail and persistence. She hand-addresses every envelope and uses real stamps – a task that consumes hours upon hours every year.

“I know how I sort my mail—and it’s really quick. No stamped envelope? It goes straight to the trash.” She pauses and starts laughing to herself. Then, she puts her thumb and pointer finger in front of her face and twists them ever-so slightly to the right. “And… a stamp that’s slightly askew.” She burst out in laughter.

Curtis knows that if it looks like a real letter, there’s a better chance that someone who matters will open it—and that’s worth the hours upon hours she spends doing mailings every year.

That’s the kind of person Beth Curtis is: the kind that plays the long game and is willing to persist to reach her goals. Throughout her life, she says “Whatever I did, I did it. I cared about not just drifting through.”

continue

Monday, April 11, 2022

EDWIN RUBIS - THOUGHTS ABOUT 420

 

Edwin Rubis is in a nonviolent person who is serving a defacto life sentence for a nonviolent marijuana offence.  He received the trial penalty since he did not take a plea.  




4/20  -   WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?


  This year, cannabis enthusiasts will celebrate 4/20 around the world. In America, thousands will toke up with their friends in their respective states where cannabis is legal. Marijuana businesses will take advantage of the holiday to sell and market their products.

   Not me.

   I'll be going through the same rigorous, monotonous routine I've gone through for the past 8,760 days, waking up to see fences upon fences topped with coiled razor wire and gun sentries, reminding me of the place I've been condemned to live in until God knows when. In a place where perturbed loudness and human uneasiness abound, in a place where senseless violence can explode at any moment.

   True, there are many who believe I shouldn't be here for a plant that's now legal in thirty-five states and counting. The hundreds of letters I've received over the years testify of such lamentation. Yet feeling empathy for my situation, and others in the same boat, can only take you so far. Telling me, "that's a horrible thing you're going through," can only comfort me so much. Our unjust situation needs radical personal involvement. A campaign in the form of NO-PARDON-NO-VOTE aimed at President Biden in the next election, or something of the sort.

   Being in prison during 4/20 frustrates me more than anything else. The government is keeping us locked up for a product that many are profiting from, including politicians. Just ask ex-speaker of the house, John Boehner, member of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company, who would rather make a buck than advocate for congress to let us go in the name of social justice.

   Many celebrating 4/20 are unaware what prison is like for me. Over the years, I've had to scrounge for funds to further my education. I've had to go without food items and toiletries from the prison commissary just to buy my college books and pay for my tuition. I've had to go without so that I could make phone calls and send e-mails to my loved ones and friends.

   Don't get me wrong, Last Prisoner Project, FreedomGrow, MissionGreen, Cheri Sicard, and others help as much as they can (LPP bought my college books for my Masters Degree). But it's still not always enough to carry the day. A few weeks ago, I had only $.85 on my prison account, until Amy Povah and her organization deposited $150.00 This enabled me to buy food essentials in the form of pre-cooked rice, turkey sausage, tuna, oatmeal, peanut butter, dried fruit, and so forth to make my own microwaved meals. Regular prison food is unhealthy and not always so edible after eating it for over 24 years. The rest went to the phone and e-mail. Everything in prison costs money.

   So  on this special day, all I can muster is a glimmer of hope and faith that someone will speak on our behalf, that someone will remember the forgotten ones, that someone will pledge and sponsor us, to ultimately bring us home to celebrate 4/20 with our friends and loved ones.


**** Edwin Rubis is serving 40 years in federal prison for a non-violent marijuana offense.

      He has been in prison since 1998. His out-date is 2033.

      You can e mail Edwin at: edwinrubis@aol.com

Thursday, April 7, 2022

The More Act

 



Last night I was able to talk Craig Cesal who has been a good friend for many years,

Craig was one of the people serving life for pot who received clemency from President Trump on his last day in office, Jan. 21,2021.  For someone who was suppose to die behind bars, being free is a miracle for Craig and all the other nonviolent people who were sentenced to die behind bars for a nonviolent marijuana offence.


Unfortunately, there are still people who fit this profile who did not win the lottery of clemency or compassionate release.  Many are hopeful that the More Act will give them back their life.  Unfortunately, the More Act falls short of this hope.


The Cannabis Industry and the Criminal Justice System will have no integrity as long as these people are caged until death.  


The most logical way to right this excessive punishment would be presidential clemency for marijuana offenders as a category.  


This is Craig's piece about why the More Act may be false hope for many.  Prisoners Left Behind



Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A SANE BILL TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA - CANNABIS








Republican Congress Woman Nancy Mace 


Congresswoman Nancy Mace has introduced a bill to legalize marijuana that should have the support of the Cannabis Industry and Criminal Justice Reform Organizations.  


It is a clean bill that has integrity and simplicity.  We hope that everyone will take a look and urge Congress to consider and pass this simple sane legislation.

The freshman representative from South Carolina introduced an Americans for Prosperity-endorsed bill to end federal pot prohibition and says legalization is an issue that unites America—“just like apple pie.”

On the second floor of the Cannon House Office Building, across Independence Avenue from the U.S. Capitol, Representative Nancy Mace is drinking rosé out of a can as her Havanese named Liberty—who is a very good boy, she assures—sits next to her in a leather chair. As the sun sets over The District, Mace talks about why cannabis should be legal.

“There's a million reasons to end federal prohibition and the only place where this is controversial is up here,” says Mace. “It’s an enormously popular idea. America is like: ‘WTF, D.C., why have you not done this yet?’”



Thursday, December 23, 2021

 

  


John Knock and Paul Free - Two nonviolent people who were sentenced to Life for Pot.  They are among the fortunate few who received clemency - Paul from Obama and John from Trump.  

Life For Pot, The Beth Curtis Interview: Part One

Beth Curtis started Life For Pot, a foundation to grant clemency to those incarcerated for non-violent cannabis charges. Her story is one about love and justice. Her brother, John Knock was convicted to a life sentence in which Beth spent decades trying to free him of injustice and was successful after John had spent nearly 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Beth Curtis, Peter Maguire, Paul Free (who also faced life in prison until his release thanks to Beth) and Rob have a long conversation about the history of the war on drugs and how hypocritical the marijuana industry became in only a matter of decades. Beth is a hero and has saved the lives of so many innocent prisoners and her story is nothing short of incredible.

Interview with Signal Fire Radio


Friday, December 10, 2021

WHERE ARE BIDEN'S CLEMENCYS ?????

 

 It's time to end the war on              marijuana.



WHERE ARE BIDEN'S COMMUTATIONS ?????

WE'RE WAITING

Not to kick a dead horse but we need to be honest.  We're talking about commutations.  We need to be honest about the data.  

During the first five years of the Obama administration the population of the Federal Prisons increased by 19,000.  During his first five years he granted 1 commutation.  

At the end of the Obama administration he had granted 1,715 commutations.  He denied 18,749 petitions for commutations, and left 11,355 petitions for the next administration.  

During the first 4 years of the Trump administration he granted 94 commutations and denied 98.  There were 65 commutations granted to drug offenders.  The federal prison population decreased by over 35,000

Where is President Biden's compassion and mercy?  He could easily start granting commutations to all those who are presently living productive lives on home confinement with the threat of a return to federal prison hanging over their heads.

Another category would be all those incarcerated for marijuana.  These sentences are egregious while the marijuana industry is thriving by producing and distributing the same product.  

The criminal justice system and the cannabis industry will have no integrity as  long as these people are caged behind bars.   

            https://www.businessinsider.com/joe-biden-pardons-clemency-none-so-far-activists-disappointed-2021-12

Monday, October 11, 2021

Conservatives Support Criminal Justice Reform



Opinion Piece by Mark Holden & Jason Pye


Holden & Pye: Trump made conservatives criminal justice reform leaders. Here's how to keep it that way



Conservatives need to build off Trump's successful criminal justice polices

Saturday, October 9, 2021

WHY NOT CLEMENCY BY CATEGORY???

 



WHY NOT CLEMENCY BY CATEGORY?  

SUGGESTIONS:


1. ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE PRESENTLY ON HOME CONFINEMENT DUE TO THE CARES   ACT

2. ALL NONVIOLENT PEOPLE SERVING SENTENCES FOR MARIJUANA.


THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY WILL NOT HAVE INTEGRITY WHILE PEOPLE ARE BEHIND BARS FOR CANNABIS. 




Saturday, July 17, 2021




 Important data on Douglas Berman's Blog Sentencing Law and Policy



The population of the federal prison system speaks to the administrations commitment to sentencing reform.  So far it falls far short of the promises of mercy and compassion.  




Friday, June 11, 2021

A SECOND LOOK AT THE MORE ACT - WHO WON'T BE HELPED



Kyle Jaeger recently wrote a piece for Marijuana Moment:

Trump Clemency Recipient Says Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Leave Many Prisoners Behind.

Advocates are eager for a House vote on a recently reintroduced bill to federally legalize marijuana—but some others are sounding the alarm about provisions related to resentencing that might not help to repair the harms of the war on drugs in the way lawmakers are aiming for.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances. But it also has a concerted focus on social equity, which includes providing for resentencing for people convicted over certain federal marijuana offenses.

To many advocates and legislators, there’s a necessity to couple legalization with equity. And that’s what the resentencing language, along with other provisions, is supposed to achieve. But in a letter to congressional lawmakers, a pro-reform individual who received clemency for a cannabis conviction from President Donald Trump warned that the bill, as written, would not have the impact that the sponsors intend.

Because the legislation gives significant deference to the courts to make decisions on resentencing petitions—but also declines to resolve cases where there are aggravating factors such as possession of a firearm or sums of money at the time of an arrest—relief could be out of reach for a large number of federal inmates, the letter states.

Craig Cesal, who is serving a sentence of supervised release after being granted clemency by Trump over a federal cannabis trafficking case, said in the letter that many people incarcerated for marijuana “would receive no relief from their conviction at all” under the MORE Act, and some would “continue to serve life sentences for conduct which would no longer be considered illegal.”


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Mother Thresa of Pot Prisoners

Thank  you Stephanie Murray for this article in Input Magazine.  Nonviolent people serving egregious sentences for marijuana need CLEMENCY from President Biden or they will die behind bars for a substance that is legal to some degree in the majority of states.  

       


Just a few months ago, 61-year-old Craig Cesal was in prison in Indiana on a marijuana charge, serving a life sentence without the opportunity for parole.

When he was first arrested in the early 2000s, Cesal ran a business in Chicago that fixed trucks for a company in Florida. “They said since I knew some of the drivers were trafficking marijuana that it made me part of their marijuana conspiracy,” Cesal says.  

On 4/20, Craig will be on a fishing trip in West Palm Beach with a group of other marijuana offenders who’ve managed to have their sentences reduced. “There’s a cannabis company that’s paying to fly a bunch of us former pot lifers down,” Cesal says. “Of course, Beth is going down, because we all have ties to her.”  

The “Beth” he’s referring to is 79-year-old Beth Curtis from Zanesville, Ohio, the founder of LifeforPot.com, an amateurish little site she built in 2009 to raise awareness about people like Craig — or more specifically, people like her brother, John Knock, who was sentenced to two life terms plus 20 years for a first-time nonviolent marijuana-only offense. Beth has spent more than a decade aggressively advocating for federal clemency on Knock’s and others’ behalf, earning her the nickname the Mother Teresa of Pot Prisoners.

                                     


Friday, February 12, 2021

THE BIDEN CHALLENGE

 THIS IS THE BIDEN CHALLENGE GRANT CLEMENCY TO NONVIOLENT MARIJUANA OFFENDERS 

 

In January, President Trump granted clemency to 7 individuals serving sentences of life without parole for marijuana and one with a sentence of 50 years. 

These are sentences that assure that you will die in a cage for a nonviolent marijuana offence.  Today,  politicians are receiving campaign donations from cannabis businesses for a substance that is as illegal federally as the day these individuals were sentenced.  

The marijuana industry has investments from politicians, entertainers, wall street, educators as well as hundreds of thousands of individuals who nibble in their investment portfolios.  Cannabis is still on the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule 1 drug designating it as more dangerous than fentanyl and oxycontin.   To be consistent, marijuana businesses should be prosecuted in the same manner as these unfortunate nonviolent people.  

The Cannabis industry and the criminal justice system cannot have integrity as long as these sentences stand.


President Biden can pardon this category immediately and right this wrong. 


These are three people with life sentences for marijuana who need immediate clemency from President Biden.  If criminal justice is a priority for this administration it needs to start now.


Hector Ruben McGurk    25843-180
Circuit                              4th
Age:                                  60
Charges:                            Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute,                                               Conspiracy to money launder
Incarcerated since:            2003
Trial or plea:                     Trial - first trial ended with a hung jury
                                          Prosecutors found another cooperating witness 
                                          and tried Hector again.






Ismael Lira                        45946-190
Circuit                               5th
Charges:                            Conspiracy to distribute marijuana
Priors:                                None
Sentenced                          Oct. 6,2006
Trial or plea:                      Trial










Pedro Moreno                    71498-079
Circuit                                5th
Age:                                    60
Charge:                                
Incarcerated since:             1996
Trial or plea:                       Plea