Tuesday, April 30, 2024



We understand that marijuana is being rescheduled on the Controlled Substance Act's Schedule.  It is being moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3.

This will not mean anything to the thousands of nonviolent marijuana only people who are serving life for pot and other egregious sentences.  For them it is only window dressing designed to imply mercy and compassion for those who have been damaged by marijuana prohibition.

The criminal justice system and the cannabis industry will not have integrity as long as these people are still incarcerated for marijuana.  

Friday, September 22, 2023



Today the Office of the Pardon Attorney hosted an event - The Case for Second Chances.  There were powerful stories of redemption from those who had received mercy and compassion.  

There was an irony that was palpable throughout the event.  Where is the mercy and compassion of the Biden administration.  Presently there are over 17,000 petitions in the Pardon Attorney's office asking for clemency and pardons.  Additionally, the population of the the Bureau of Prisons has increased every year of the Biden Administration.  

The time for action is now.  


Tuesday, July 18, 2023



The best way to evaluate the state of mercy and compassion in our criminal justice system is to look at the number of people who are incarcerated.  I will look at this from the perspective of people incarcerated in Federal Prison

There is an abundance of commentary and literature comparing the level of mercy by presidential administration.  Which administration was most responsible for sentencing reform.  This is an attempt to look at the prison population of various administrations.

During the Nixon administration the number of people in Federal Prison was around 25,000.  It remained there throughout the Ford and Carter administration.  In the 1980s the federal prison population began to rise and did not stop till the 5th year of the Obama administration when it reached over 219,000.  

The question that should be asked is – was there less crime or was the criminal code simpler and more straight forward.  The implications are obvious, the criminal justice system is a very large part of the national budget. This discussion has nothing to do with interpretation of the law or case law.  It's about the expansion of the criminal justice system and the impact it has had on freedom.  

This is about the governments power to take freedom and assets from citizens.  It is about an expansion of government expenditures, it is about a larger and larger per cent of the population being paid to arrest, investigate, prosecute and house citizens for breaking the law, paying enormous amounts to multiple industries that now depend on government contracts that supply the BOP.   It is about the expansion of the criminal code. It is about nonviolent people who find themselves in an 8x10 cell for decades that has cost tax payers billions of dollars.

To be continued.

Sunday, April 23, 2023



There are 14,039 commutation petitions waiting in the pardon attorney's office.  There are 3,557 petitions for pardons waiting for the president's signature.  This means over 17,000 people are waiting for the compassion and mercy of the Biden Administration.  Granting pardons to people who have never been incarcerated and clemency to those already on home confinement is not bold and is not mercy.  

It is true that President Biden made a pardon  announcement for 6,000 people with charges of marijuana possession only.  It needs to be noted that this announcement of Pardon's did not release one person from Federal Prison. 

He also granted commutations to around 80 people.  Most all of these people had previously been released to home confinement.

Since the end of 2020 the federal prison population has been steadily increasing and now there are over 159,000 people in the BOP.  Where are the grants of clemency to people who are actually living behind bars?

This is from Doug Berman's blog - Sentencing Law and Policy

 A helpful reader altered me to an event, called "A Celebration of Second Chances," that the Office of the Pardon Attorney is hosting in honor of Second Chance month. This program will be livestreamed at this link tomorrow, Friday, April 21, 2023, at 10:00 am EDT. The email I received flagging the celebration event described it this way:  

The event will feature opening remarks by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke and a panel of speakers who will discuss the impact of second chances through clemency.  Speakers will include Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, Jr., former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, and the Honorable Alexander Williams, Jr., and clemency recipients Danielle Metz, Norman Brown, and Evans Ray.  The event will also honor special guests who have received clemency from President Biden and his predecessors or who have received other forms of second-chance relief.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023




It's time for President Biden to act on his promise.  That would be granting the pardons he announced.  In the interest of mercy, compassion and integrity he needs to grant clemency to all nonviolent marijuana offenders serving egregious sentences in Federal Prison.  This should be an easy call.   

It's time for the Department of Justice to deliver the pardon certificates that President Biden promised last fall.


The President announced the issuance of marijuana-specific pardons on October 6, 2022 as part of a widely supported set of actions recognizing the folly of federal cannabis prohibition. Thousands of people with federal criminal records for simple marijuana possession are eligible for a pardon that would help them obtain employment, housing, education, and more.


Unfortunately, more than three months later, the Department of Justice pardon website indicates that the applications to obtain a pardon certificate are still unavailable.

Norml's discussion of this Presidential authority.

Thursday, January 19, 2023


I wrote this many years ago and put it on the web site for my brother, John Knock.  I just came across it and decided that my feelings about the sentiment are the same. 

In 1965, I was an idealistic graduate student. It was an exciting time with Michael Harrington's culture of poverty, the beginning of the Welfare Rights Movement, the civil Rights Movement and the dark cloud of Viet Nam as a back drop. The rights of the individual were magnified by these MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN OF THE 60S looked to the Federal Government to define, bestow and preserve the same. An activist court was cheered and legislation to regulate human behavior was warmly welcomed. Bobby Kennedy's pursuit of the scoundrels of organized crime would remove a cancer from our country. Rico, conspiracy and mandatory minimums were on their way.

Forty years later I still strive to understand the individual's relationship to the state and how there can be a relationship that maintains freedom through the "Rule of Law". Waves of nausea now overcome me when I hear the phrase.

We now have one third of our citizens who have interfaced with the criminal justice complex. Rural communities hope there will be a need for more prisons and vie for them to be built in their community. Prisons are considered economic development. Many federal, State and Local Government jobs are dependent on the growth of our prison population. As more and more men and women are interfacing with the court system, the rule of law is a labyrinth of conflict and contradiction.

This contract between the governed and the state becomes unfathomable. Just as unfathomable is some consensus about what individual rights are. Case law piles on in volumes, and contradictory and minutely parsed decisions leave defendants without a clear understanding of process. Additionally they are required to use the services of an army of attorneys and advocates of various abilities and ethics. The financial resources of their families are sucked into the black hole of our criminal justice system.

If forfeitable assets are part of the bounty of the state, defense attorneys must defend their clients by walking on eggs, fearful that they may also be prosecuted. This further compromises the rights of the defendant. Many defendants must make plea agreements to things they knew little or nothing about because they have no resources. Even those with ample resources plea to avoid the almost certain conviction, and harsher sentence. Grand Juries are now used to investigate, rather than to decide if there is probable cause to indict.

Split decisions with carefully parsed nuances send hopes and money into this abys.

It must be noted that each individual caught in this web has children, parents, brothers and sisters who love them and are also disillusioned, confounded, and perhaps bitter about resources expended on a system that is so confounding yet has the power to take away the future of so many families.

How did we become so fearful of freedom that we have insisted on laws that criminalize so much human behavior and even thought? We now routinely convict people of crimes that never took place, in places the defendant has never been, with people they do not know and incidentally, the criminal act was instigated by law enforcement. The rest of the world disdains us and developing countries reject our rule of law. We investigate people who have not broken the law to prevent lawlessness. Our law enforcement is becoming lawless. Our rule of law is too voluminous and therefore arbitrary. Even the language, War on Crime, belies the rule of law. Our justice system uses the metaphors of war, and the object is the citizens whose part of the covenant is to give consent.

Brilliant trial and appellate attorneys arguing cases and judges deciding them are thrilling to read and even more so to watch. Their memory and critical thought is as sharp and shining as a mirror shattering. To me it is also as frightening as it would be to walk bare foot across the broken glass.

As I watch Justice Bryer and Justice Scalia have conversations about decisions and interpretations, I long for something more absolute. Something more absolute would-be language that is clear, simple and true. How can a man's life and liberty depend on nuances culled from thousands and thousands of pages of case law with the reasonable possibility of a single sentence or concept on one of those pages becoming determinative. Too much law turns "Rule of Law" into rule of men.

What would Aristotle think of our rule of law? What would our founding fathers see? We have constant imposition and enforcement of arbitrary and restrictive values imposed on us by an over active legislative branch. These are interpreted and judged by a judiciary system that seems to be well aware of the fact that the governed can no longer know the rules of the covenant they are part of. I just fear for our freedoms.

I know there is logic and order in the process, but the sheer magnitude and complexity of the possibilities invites subjectivity.

Beth Cutis

Friday, December 16, 2022


This is a reminder that PERFECT should not be the enemy of THE GOOD

A perfect Clemency Petition that is not at the Pardon Attorney's office and/or the White House will not be granted.

A prisoner whose clemency petition is not at the White House and / or the DOJ when the President decides to grant clemencies will not receive clemency no matter how worthy a candidate he or she is.  

Many of the nonviolent marijuana prisoners serving life for pot and other egregious sentences have been released through clemency and compassionate release.  

How does clemency happen?  Clemency is simply an act of mercy and compassion exercised by the President.  It can be granted to anyone for any reason at any time, however  it is generally granted in spurts and sometimes for a specific category of inmate.  At the present time, the category of nonviolent marijuana offenders is a perfect category for this compassionate act by President Biden.  This is not just the opinion of Life for Pot, but is also a category supported by many groups of Americans lobbying for sentencing relief.  

As we have previously discussed - it is the Elephant in the Room.  Pro Bono attorneys have been solicited to assist nonviolent marijuana offenders with their clemency petitions.   Law firms that provide Pro Bono attorneys do so to fulfill a stated value of social responsibility and receive recognition for this valuable service to their community.  It is admirable and provides a service that would be denied to a large number of vulnerable people.

We salute them.  There is however a problem that  sometimes raises it's disturbing head.  That is that pro bono work is sometimes put off past the deadline for asking for sentencing relief.  In order to actually receive clemency, the person must have a clemency petition somewhere at the DOJ or the White House. 

That is the only way clemency will be granted when an administration decides to exercise this very important function.  If there is no petition or request, there is no clemency granted. 

As readers may know, Life for Pot does not believe that any nonviolent marijuana offenders should be incarcerated as the reason for this sentence has long been mute.  This sentence is based on marijuana being scheduled as a drug more dangerous than oxycontin and fentanyl.  The fact that marijuana is legal to some degree in the majority of states and that legislators are receiving tens of millions of lobbying dollars from the marijuana industry makes these sentences particularly obscene.  

During the Obama administration a clemency initiative was instituted called CP - 14.  Pro Bono Attorney's were recruited and were assigned inmates who fit the criteria that had been established by the administration.  Of course there was a deadline that had to be met for clemency petitions to be considered.  This was very important and at the end of CP - 14 around 1,700 inmates were granted clemency.  Around 66 of those were nonviolent marijuana offenders and 11 were nonviolent marijuana offenders with life sentences.  This was far short of the hoped for number.  Tragically, there were nonviolent marijuana inmates whose petitions had not been completed by their assigned pro bono attorney's.  Pro bono work is sometimes not considered a priority.  We are hopeful that clemency petitions for these inmates will be completed before this president decides to grant mercy and compassion to this category. 

Again we are hopeful for clemency for marijuana inmates - and especially those serving life sentences.  This sentence means that they will live in a cage with a concrete floor until death.  It is not a sentence that should be given for a substance that is legal to some degree in most states.  It is not a sentence that should be given in a country that claims to have a fair and just legal system 

Thursday, October 20, 2022


LIFE FOR POT http://www.lifeforpot.com



Life for Pot has not received any donations or financial support from:

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


Sunday, August 28, 2022

Time in Cell


This post Time in Cell is from Douglas Berman's Blog Sentencing Law and Policy.  It is worth the read.  

Latest "Time-in-Cell" report estimates that, as of July 2021, "between 41,000 and 48,000 people were held in isolation in U.S. prison cells"

In a new report spearheaded by Yale Law School, the number of prisoners subjected to “restrictive housing”, as solitary is officially known, stood at between 41,000 and 48,000 in the summer of 2021. They were being held alone in cells the size of parking spaces, for 22 hours a day on average and for at least 15 days.

Within that number, more than 6,000 prisoners have been held in isolation for over a year. They include almost a thousand people who have been held on their own in potentially damaging confined spaces for a decade or longer....

When I saw this report I immediately thought of the nonviolent marijuana offenders I have known who have been sent to the SHU over the years.  The reasons always seemed capricious and random.  I have heard some say that it was a relief to be taken to a place where there was no danger -they would be alone and safe.  This feeling only lasted for a short period of time.  Having cold food passed into your cell was always a drawback as well as not being unable to see the sun or exercise.  There was some comfort in not being confined in an 8X10 cell with another human being.  Regular cells are essentially a bathroom as they contain a toilet.  

I was introduced to this isolation years ago when John Knock was kept in isolation for the year prior to his trial.  In order to do this, it was necessary to claim that there was no space in a federal facility to hold him.  A county jail was the facility that was chosen.  They could set their own rules.  Those rules were that he would be held in a cell with a board over the window.  There was limited reading material and the temperature was set on an uncomfortable cool.  He was awakened every two hours with a flash light shining in his face.  Calories were limited.  

Although all his family lived hundreds of miles away, visits had to be approved at the beginning of each shift.  This meant that family had to travel hundreds of miles and then call to see if they could visit.  The jail could then say no not on that shift - call back in 8 hours.  If they were fortunate enough to be approved for a visit - it lasted 15 minutes.  There was not a visiting room.  Family sat in front of Plexiglas, there was a 4 inch slit at the bottom so it was necessary to bend over to talk.  John was brought in to sit on the other side.  His hands were shackled to a chain around his waist.  His feet were shackled so he could only shuffle.  Throughout the visit an armed guard stood behind him.  He still had a smile on his face.  

Sunday, May 15, 2022



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.”


Monday, April 11, 2022



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.  


  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


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?’”