Saturday, February 9, 2019

A DISCUSSION OF MERCY AND COMPASSION



 THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF ALICE JOHNSON'S








It is more apparent now than ever before that today’s cannabis business enterprise is yesterday’s marijuana conspiracy.  Marijuana prohibition is a big government program.

I’m writing to ask you to support our effort to secure clemency and retroactive sentencing relief for nonviolent marijuana offenders serving sentences of life without parole and other egregiously long sentences for cannabis.  The current climate of legalization has made these sentences an Eighth Amendment issue.  It can be said that this sentencing fosters disrespect for the criminal justice system.

For the past ten years, Life for Pot has been advocating for sentencing relief/clemency for nonviolent marijuana offenders.  Tangentially, this would also include removing marijuana from the CSA Schedule.

Over the years, we have encouraged criminal justice reform groups to carve out marijuana sentencing as a category that needs individual emphasis.  There has been very little interest in this category, although many do break out juveniles, women, minorities and crack cocaine.
 
The reason for this hesitance is not clear to me but the discussion always seems to gravitate to a discussion about inclusiveness and a perception that a carve out for marijuana offenders would imply that they were more “worthy” of consideration than other people serving egregious sentences for all drugs and nonviolent people charged with a violent offense on the worst day of their lives. 

We see this carve out as comparable to categories for women, minorities, juveniles, crack offenders.  We also believe that if we cannot find mercy and compassion for nonviolent marijuana offenders we have very little hope that there will be a shift toward redemption for all.   

In the current climate of legalization, Please consider marijuana sentencing reform as a category for advocacy.   The impact of marijuana prohibition and its huge influence on egregious prosecution and incarceration needs attention. It may in fact be the single most influential policy in introducing youth and disadvantaged communities to the criminal justice system. 

In 2017, there were 659,700 arrests for marijuana offenses.  They were not all prosecuted, but the intersection with the criminal justice system and the arrest record, begins the long journey.  No doubt, many of these arrests are disadvantaged

youth and young adults.  In many cases these individuals are low hanging fruit for law enforcement statistics.

Additionally we would address the fact that there are nonviolent people serving sentences of life without parole for a product that is now a billion dollar industry.  These individuals serving life sentences will not receive sentencing relief through the First Step Act as they were charged with conspiracy and were sentenced without plea agreements or substantial assistance.  These nonviolent people will not receive sentencing relief from the First Step Act.  They need Presidential Commutations.