LIFE FOR POT
THESE PEOPLE WERE ALL
SENTENCED TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR NONVIOLENT MARIJUANA OFFENCES
Life for Pot has not received any donations or financial
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
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
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