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February 28, 2016

"With Marijuana Legal, Why Are People Still Doing Life For Weed?"

Thie question in the title of this post is the headline of this article from The Kind (as well as a question that really does not have a satsfactory answer).  Here are excerpts: 

At least 30 people are currently serving life without parole for non-violent marijuana-related offenses. Save extraordinary events, they will die in prison. Overturning a law does not exonerate the people who were convicted of breaking the law when it was in effect. This means that even if marijuana is legalized tomorrow, those serving time for marijuana-related offenses will not be released.

“Most people don’t believe it,” says Beth Curtis, founder of Life for Pot, an organization that spotlights people who are serving life without parole for non-violent marijuana-only offenses.

One person who is scheduled to remain in jail until they die is Curtis’s brother, John Knock. “Twenty years ago I received a phone call informing me that my youngest brother had been indicted for a marijuana conspiracy in Florida,” Curtis explains on her site. “Our lives have never been the same.”...

 In 2008 she launched LifeForPot.com, which currently features 30 or so inmates with life or de facto life sentences (e.g., someone who is 50 years old and gets 50 years). Most of Curtis’s advocacy takes place offline, primarily through writing and sending information about individuals to congress, congressmen, and various groups that might take up the cause. “Actually a lot of people have,” she says. “Now when you Google ‘life for pot’, lots of stuff comes up. When I first started, it was just my site.”...

Without retroactive legislation, inmates serving life without parole for weed can only be released through clemency, in the form of a pardon or sentence commutation from the president (on the federal level) or from the governor (on the state level). (Group pardons are rare, but not entirely unprecedented.)

Out of the 95 sentence commutations granted by President Barrack Obama in December, two were serving life for marijuana-related crimes: Billy Dekel and Charles Cundiff.

Beth Curtis says she’s been advocating for both of them for years and plans to visit them once they’re out. Another inmate on Curtis’s radar, Larry Duke, was freed last March under a compassionate release program for inmates over 65.  While Curtis was elated by the three inmates’ release, she notes that Obama would need to seriously ramp up the number of commutations to make a meaningful dent in the population.

“These people need clemency to get any relief,” she says. “And for the old guys, it’s kind of important that it happens pretty soon. Their runway is a lot shorter. Not that the younger people shouldn’t be released also, but dying in prison is a particularly horrendous thought.  “Obama said that through clemency there would be thousands released,” Curtis adds. “I hope that that’s true. I hope and pray that that’s true.”   

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform

February 28, 2016 at 11:55 PM | Permalink


Well, I visited three nonviolent marijuana offenders who received sentences of life without parole last week. They had all been released through clemency or compassionate release after serving over 25 years of their life sentences. I hope to visit many more.

Their ages ranged from 64 to 70 - obviously we do not have to worry about our safety.

Posted by: beth | Feb 29, 2016 4:48:02 PM

The clemency and pardon area is one area where Obama needs to get off his arse and start freeing humans.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Feb 29, 2016 9:38:04 PM

Thanks Liberty 1st. Of course I agree.

Posted by: beth | Mar 2, 2016 12:30:17 AM

My heart goes out to these prisoners and their families. I cry every day for my brother Paul who walked away from the conspiracy 5-6 years before he was arrested; he was "lucky" and only got 15 years. Now it's year 8 and my parents are elderly and frail with dementia and Parkinson's. I pray and hope laws change or SOMETHING HAPPENS to bring him home; they need him, I need him. He more than learned his lesson; he was stupid to even be peripherally involved(storing pot in his house 3 times). He is kind, gentle and loving. Very sad. Thank you for helping the struggle

Posted by: Lisa newman | Mar 22, 2016 9:41:26 AM

I am 50 yrs old, an RN.
My brother Paul is 55 and in Lewisburg Federal Camp. My parents are in very bad health, I REALLY need his help. I am exploring every avenue. Thank you

Posted by: Lisa newman | Mar 22, 2016 9:43:48 AM

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