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








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


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, 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




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
Incarcerated since:             1996
Trial or plea:                       Plea

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


President Biden could immediately grant clemency to nonviolent people serving sentences of life without parole and other egregious sentences for marijuana.  Clemency for this category would be fiscally responsible and would help restore integrity to the criminal justice system.  

Thank you President Trump for granting clemency to 7 nonviolent people serving sentences of life without parole for marijuana and one serving a sentence of 50 years.  This sentence is not fiscally responsible and is not just.  

Sunday, December 6, 2020



Nonviolent marijuana offenders need clemency from President Trump.  It would leave a legacy of mercy and compassion.  

President Trump has supported legislation that has reduced the federal prison population by around 40,000. 

Unfortunately Clemency Project 2014 only granted clemency to 11 nonviolent marijuana only offenders.  

We believe in the current climate of legalization, this category cries out for sentencing relief and President Trump's process is compatible with granting them clemency.  

Billy Dekle was incarcerated for 26 years for a nonviolent marijuana offence.  These are his reflections about the cannabis industry and the criminal justice system,


     Billy Dekle

    Lake City, FL.      32055


         Dear Sir,

I am a nonviolent marijuana offender who was sentenced to life without parole in the l1th Circuit,
     Northern District of Florida. After serving 25 years in federal prison, I was granted clemency by
     President Obama in 2015.

These are my reflections about this sentence and the billion-dollar growth of Cannabis business
enterprises. I am writing this in support of sentencing relief for nonviolent marijuana offenders who have been sentenced to life without parole and other egregious sentences for marijuana.

I am standing in the lobby of a legal dispensary in Colorado thinking is this for real. The odor of
what certainly smells like a nice crop of marijuana is filling my nostrils. A young woman in her
early thirties asks for my driver's license to verify that I am indeed 2
1 years old. Formality I am
sure as she can tell I am certainly over the age of 60. She proceeds to inquire about the product I

am interested in - Sativa or Indica?

She then begins to school me on the types and benefits of the herb. I let her proceed for a few
minutes telling me how it has been used for centuries as a natural cure for a variety of ailm
I stopped her, smiled and said I was in the pot business for many years back in the 70
's until the

      government put me out of business. She looked at me inquisitively.       

      I explain that President Obama gave me Executive Clemency three years ago. I had been serving
      two life sentences without release
, plus eight thirty-year sentences (a slow death sentence). All

this for the importation of what she was currently selling legally. In all I have served probably

30 years in prison for marijuana violations well over this young lady's lifetime. She was

astonished as most people are that I tell my story to. They all ask me the same question, "How is
that possible?
" After telling me I am her hero I end up getting a free t-shirt for what she called being

"one of the founding fathers of the industry".

There is no one happier than me that societys views on the marijuana industry have changed. It

      is now considered a respectable business      

My question now is how it is possible that there are still people in prison for the same exact
thing. Many of those are nonviolent offender who are elderly and have done decades in prison.

I also do not understand why an industry that is making billions on a product, legal in many
states, are not advocating for marijuana laws to be changed including the laws still holding those
in prison. Laws were broken and justice was served but sentences for life and decades in prison.

are ridiculous for a product that is and has been beneficial to so many. It should be revisited by
our government and citizens that make up our country.

I do not understand why people with influence do not take up the banner for changes in our
country. There are many celebrities that have enjoyed marijuana for decades who turn their
heads at the atrocities of the draconian marijuana laws. How can the cannabis businesses also
turn their heads and not speak out against an obvious wrong? Everyone should be soliciting help
from congressmen, lobbyist, advocacy groups, etc. We all have a voice and should use it, or we
too are turning our heads on the plight of these individuals. 


William "Billy" Dekle

Lake City, FL 

Billy grew up on a farm in Northern Florida. As a child he dreamed of being a cowboy. This
fantasy evaporated when he was in high school and discovered the thrill of flying. It was his
love then and after twenty plus years behind bars he still dreams of it.

Florida in the 70s was a mecca for the pot smuggling cowboys. It was common and many boys
with a sense of adventure living in this hard scrabble area tried their hand at it. Billy was no
. His plane did not carry tons, but it was sufficient to pass the bar.

When Billy was arrested in 1990 on a federal indictment he had several state offenses, but the
law had changed and this was a much more serious situation. Because of the magnitude of the
charging, Billy went to trial and received the sentence that is common to nonviolent marijuana
offenders who are charged with conspiracy and go to trial- life without parole.

While Billy was incarcerated he worked regularly and diligently for UNICOR - The Prison
Industry. He did exceptional work as a production clerk and was an asset to the Business Office.
His evaluations used phrases like: Preforms in an outstanding manner, Very knowledgeable and
through in his work, He expedites all assignments and Outstanding job

Billy was never a threat to society and had a loving family waiting for his release after all those

Larry Duke was incarcerated for 23 years for a nonviolent marijuana offence.  These are his reflections about the cannabis industry and the criminal justice system.  



Larry Duke

Kennesaw, GA. 30152

Dear Sir,

I want to support clemency for nonviolent marijuana offenders who are serving egregious sentences.  These are my thoughts about why in the current culture; this is a sentence that does not fit the crime. In 2015 I received Compassionate Release in the 11th Circuit, ND of Florida.  I was serving a life sentence as a nonviolent marijuana offender.

With legalities aside, I applaud Wall Street's recent recognition and promotion of the cannabis
industry as a boom market to potential investors. A new business concept which isn't all that
different from the mass market potential we first recognized fifty years ago.

Since 1968 when I first began to dabble in the supply side of the business, the market side
demand for marijuana in the United States has steadily grown.

Only now, us old industry pioneers aren't allowed to participate any longer, especially those of
us unfortunate enough to have been incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

In June of 1980, I was arrested by the DEA task force in Tenants Harbor, Maine and charged
with Conspiracy to Import with intent to distribute 18.7 tons of marijuana. After paying a fifteen
thousand dollar fine and serving 40 months on a 60 month sentence
, I was released from federal

In December 1989, I was arrested in Woodstock, Georgia on a Reverse Sting Operation, and
charged with two counts. Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute over 1000 kilograms of
marijuana, and attempt to possess with intent to distribute over
1000 kilograms of marijuana.

In 1991, I received a sentence of Life without the Possibility of Parole on each of the two counts.
In March of2015, I received a Reduction in Sentence motion from the court ordering Immediate
Release. I had served 25 years and 4 months.

Coming home after a quarter of a century behind bars, was akin to landing on Mars. In my long
absence everything and everyone had changed dramatically, especially the laws and our society's
attitudes regarding marijuana. I was astonished to say the least, but when the former Speaker of
the House of the United States Congress came out publicly promoting investment in the
Cannabis Industry that was the straw that broke the camel's back!

With the same federal conspiracy laws still in effect and on the books that I was convicted of
violating in 1989, how can this new public open source conspiracy approach to promoting and
selling marijuana not be against the law?

Not only has this new Wall Street approach been deemed legal, but there are still hundreds of us
Pot Pioneers sitting in federal and state prisons with Life Sentences. Go figure!

I find it appalling. If federal and state prosecutors are not going to file conspiracy charges against
these modem day Wall Street marijuana entrepreneurs, then at least be honest and bold enough
to order the release of all the pot people still wasting away in our nation's prisons and jails.

This new double negative business standard for the marijuana industry is compelling. States and
cities where the legal use of recreational marijuana has been approved and passed into law,
former marijuana conviction have been expunged.

Oddly enough, "IF" the federal government were to enact similar legislation to expunge former
marijuana convictions, I would have no criminal record at all.

But while Congress continues to drag their collective feet on this issue, thousands of otherwise
innocent American citizens remain incarcerated on marijuana related charges.


Larry Duke

Kennesaw, GA

Larry grew up in Georgia and when he left high school he joined the United States Marine Corps
in Atlanta three weeks after President Kennedy was assassinated. This was on his 17th
Larry is a decorated Viet Nam Combat Veteran. He served with Delta Company 1st Battalion

Marine Regiment which saw combat in 1965-1966. He was discharged on Jan 28, 1968. His
assigned USMC Service # is 2085279.

Larry worked for Unicorr and uses his time productively. He is a positive influence on others.
He used his leisure time well reading researching and exercising etc.
Larry probably was the
only Federal Inmate to hold a US patent and while incarcerated worked on another engineering
project producing a prototype for high speed ground travel. He has been working on this project
since his release and has recently received a patent.

Prior to his incarceration, Larry worked in the construction business for contractors in Georgia
and Florida.

In 2015 Larry received a rare compassionate release as an elderly inmate even though he was not

Larry has a large extended family that supported him throughout his incarceration and he
returned to Georgia to live with his wife.





Saturday, November 28, 2020


HAMILTON - FEDERALIST -  "Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel."

A fair and compassionate nation should error on the side of mercy

This is an article in the New York Post by Mark Moore and Steven Nelson.  

At Life for  Pot we hope for thousands of acts of mercy and compassion by the President using his unfettered power of clemency.

President Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his first national security advisor, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials — the first of several clemency actions Trump is expected to take before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020


This is a piece by Steven Nelson from Jan. 2017 about John Knock and Michael Pelletier. Neither of these nonviolent marijuana offenders received clemency during clemency project 2014. They are both serving sentences of life without parole. Michael and John both went to trial and received the trial penalty for nonviolent marijuana offences. Michael has been in a wheel chair since the age of 11. John is a 73 year old man who has been in prison as a first time nonviolent marijuana offender since 1996.

Today Michael tested positive for Covid 19. Today John's request for reconsideration of his Compassionate Release was denied. Life without parole for a nonviolent marijuana offence is a sentence that does not fit the crime and is not fiscally responsible and is not just. The criminal justice system and the cannabis industry will have no integrity as long as nonviolent people are behind bars with life sentences of Life for Pot.

Friday, June 19, 2020


This year some people with life sentences for marijuana (cannabis) have received sentencing relief.  This relief has been from clemency, compassionate release, home confinement and death.

Their names are: 
Paul Free                    - delayed clemency
Calvin Robinson        - compassionate release
Claude Duboc            - compassionate release
Kenny Kubinski        - compassionate release
Leopolda Hernandez - death
Craig Cesal                - home confinement
Antonio Bascara        - out lived his 40 sentence                                         in his 80s

There will be no integrity in the criminal justice system or the cannabis industry as long as there are nonviolent people serving these egregious sentences in federal prison. 

There are many more who need clemency.  They are:
John Knock
Michael Pelletier
Andy Cox
Ferrell Scott
Ismael Lira
Corvain Cooper
Hector Mc Gurk
Pedro Moreno
Way Quoe Long   50 year sentence

Craig Cesal           Craig has been released to
                                home confinement, but still
                                needs clemency to remove
                                his sentence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Marijuana offenders serving life sentences and other egregious sentences have unique issues when applying for compassionate release and/or clemency. 

1. All but two of them went to trial and received the trial penalty when then were sentenced. One of the two was sentenced without trial or plea when he did not want to testify against others. 

2. Most all of them were charged with conspiracy, a charge that exaggerates their complicity in the acts they are tried for.  They were held responsible for actions they were not involved in.  

3. The sentencing disparity is enormous

4. They are serving sentences that mean death behind bars for a substance that is legal to some degree in 33 states.

5.  Even though marijuana is still on the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana businesses are investing billions and selling billions of dollars of the same substance. They are not being prosecuted as these defendants were.  

6. Neither the criminal justice system or the cannabis industry will have integrity as long as these nonviolent marijuana offenders are behind bars. 

John Knock 11150-017
Incarcerated since - 1996
Age - 72 

Corvain Cooper  27797-177   Incarcerated since - 2013          Age - 40 



    Ferrell Scott 27787-177

     Incarcerated since - 2007
     Age - 57

         Hector Ruben McGurk 

          Incarcerated since - 2003
          Age - 60

    Michael Pelletier 11109-036

    Incarcerated since - 2006
    Age - 64

   Craig Cesal  52948-019

   Incarcerated since - 2002
   Age - 60

          Ismael Lira  45946-180

           Incarcerated since - 2005
           Age - 42


       Andy Cox  89487-020

       Incarcerated since - 2008
       Age - 56

                Pedro Moreno  71498-079

            Incarcerated since - 1996
            Age - 60

    Long Quoe Way  00047-111

    Incarcerated since - 1997
    Age - 57

Sunday, March 29, 2020



Had we listened to her we would not
be worrying about 
corona virus spreading through our over crowded prisons like wild fire

If we had listened to her we would not be the world's jailer

November Coalition is a grass roots organization founded by Nora Callahan in 1997.  You can read about this remarkable woman on the November Coalition web site

When Nora made this speech in 1997 the federal prison population was 112,289.  She knew that we were on a track to become the world largest jailer.  The federal prison population continued to climb till it reached it's peak in the 5th year of the Obama administration when it was over 219,000.  

If you have trouble downloading this video 
the speech is printed below 

Speech At The Drug Peace Day Rally
by Nora Callahan
Executive Director of The November Coalition

First International Drug Peace Day Rally, San Francisco, California: June 15, 1997

Good afternoon. There is an anguished cry - a cry of sorrow and despair that screams across this nation - but no one can hear it. These cries of sorrow are coming from behind the walls and wire, then dissipate in corn fields and far - off hillsides where our federal government is hiding the prisons! We are a country at war! I am here today to give voice to those cries and bring you a message from the prisoners of war in America.

The war on drugs is a hoax. It is a fraud inflicted on the American people. It is based on lies, deception, hypocrisy and propaganda. It is not about making America drug free. It is not a war against crime. It is a war against our freedom! It squanders precious resources and tax dollars while it fans flames of crime, corruption and violence. America is burning and our government is providing the fuel.

For more than thirty years now we have been duped into pouring hundreds of billions of dollars down a dark crevasse that has fractured our society. There have been the arrests of over ten million citizens from all walks of life. Over ten million! This has destroyed millions of families and still the war goes on and on.

Homes and property have been seized without due process. In conventional war this is called "disarming the enemy." In the war on drugs it is called "asset forfeiture." It is theft, plain and simple, for in most cases of asset forfeiture a criminal indictment is never made!

We currently have millions of non - violent drug law violators behind bars or on supervised release, Millions. We have become the world's leading jailer becoming what most despised about Soviet Russia during the Cold War. We pressure the countries of the world to adopt out failed policy or else . . .

Many of our federal prisons are holding twice their capacity. Our federal government alone operates 132 prisons and camps. Fifteen are under construction right now with twelve more on the drawing board. When these are open they will need 50 more, and then 70, and 90 after that . . . In effect our federal government alone must build an 832 bed facility every two weeks just to keep up with the punishment of non - violent crime!

The cost in dollars is staggering, the cost in lives is immeasurable.Prison in America is not a place of rehabilitation. It is a place of violence, humiliation, despair, and deprivation. All of this in the name of justice? All of this human destruction in a futile war against substances.

Inhuman lengths of incarceration have done nothing to stem the flow of drugs. A recent study proved that it only increases it. Yet we continue to build prisons instead of building schools.

Right now here in California you have five prisons under construction that will cost you more than 200 million dollars each - just to build! After construction the cost of warehousing one non - violent drug law violator will consume the entire tax bill of four families.

Can you afford this war? What are you getting for your money besides destruction? What must the rest of the world think when they see a country more committed to building prisons than building schools - where prison guards are paid more than teachers?

It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, We have tried this before. Alcohol prohibition was a disaster just as drug prohibition is now. Making criminals of consenting adults has always brought grief and damaged the delicate weave of social fabric.

Recently our president promised Mexico that he would insure America's appetite for drugs would be curbed. Who does he think he is kidding? We cannot curb it until we address it. A question we have failed to ask is not whether America has a drug problem, but why? Furthermore, a fundamental question that must be asked is not what you think of drugs and drug use - but do you want a Bill of Rights or not?

The stain of repression in the name of the War on Drugs is spreading like bad dye into the fabric of all our lives. It has tarnished our government as well. We no longer have a system of checks and balances within our distinct branches of government. Judicial, executive and legislative branches have merged to speak with one voice - and that voice is irrational!

We of the November Coalition are neither for or against drug use. We do support the right of the individual to make personal choices. Laws are futile and become oppressive when they place controls on consensual activity - especially when millions and millions of Americans are involved.

We must call for an immediate end to the hollow slogans, such as "No - Use and "Zero Tolerance" - messages our government brings. Realistic education must be given to out children. We must offer drug treatment as opposed to incarceration. We must demand the immediate release of all non - violent drug law violators from our nation's jails and prisons!

Students you must become active in opposing this war! This is your Vietnam, and you hold the keys of freedom. Parents, it could be your children next. In fifty years, if we keep this up - half of this country will be behind bars. This War on Drugs is another no - win war and it is time to stop it.

Sources: A copy of this speech is also available at November Coalition's site .