life sentence

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U.S.: Officials Ask Court To Reconsider Life Sentence of Silk Road Website Operator

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Retired Federal Judge, Law Enforcement, and Leading Drug Reform Organization Ask Court to Reconsider Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht’s Harsh Prison Sentence

Ulbricht Given Life Without Parole Sentence but Silk Road Copycat Sites Keep Emerging

The Drug Policy Alliance on Wednesday filed an amicus brief urging the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to reduce the harsh life without parole sentence imposed on Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted of operating the Silk Road website.

“We have learned from 40 plus years of the failed war on drugs that incarceration does not prevent drug use or sales,” said Nancy Gertner, retired federal judge and senior lecturer at Harvard Law. “Even if it did, there is absolutely no evidence that a life sentence, including life without parole, is any more effective at deterring crime than a shorter sentence would be.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), JustLeadershipUSA, and Judge Gertner (Ret.). It highlights the growing bipartisan consensus that life sentences do not make sense for drug convictions; that such sentences are disproportionate to what most people receive for drug trafficking offenses; and, given the failure of the War On Drugs, harsh sentences do nothing to deter others from committing similar crimes or to reduce drug sales or use.

U.S.: Shocked Over Silk Road Founder's Life Sentence? These Lifers Did Far Less

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Social media erupted in shock and outrage last Friday when federal Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht to Life Without the Possibility of Parole for founding and operating Silk Road’s Bitcoin funded drug market. The bulk of the comments about the verdict ran along the lines of “How can a nonviolent computer person get a life sentence when even murderers don’t serve that long?” Or, “If he was no different than any other drug dealer, why give him life?”

These sentiments offer proof of what the CAN-DO Foundation (Clemency for All Nonviolent Drug Offenders), has been saying for years -- the public is woefully ill informed regarding our federal sentencing policy for drug offenders. Even minor players regularly receive life without parole (LWOP) sentences for doing FAR less than what Ulbricht did in running a billion-dollar, anonymous drug black market that made buying illegal drugs almost as easy as making an Amazon.com purchase.

CAN-DO officers, who work to support clemency efforts for prisoners serving LWOP for victimless marijuana-only conspiracy offenses, say that life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have been going on in the USA for decades and are still a relatively common practice.

Some of the men the CAN-DO Foundation works with had little to no involvement in the actual crime that earned them their life sentences. For instance, Craig Cesal, a first time offender, did nothing more than repair the trucks that had been used to haul marijuana after the smugglers left them abandoned and in disrepair.

Texas: 3 Men Face Life For Pot Edibles; Harsh Policy Creates Local Outcry

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Three Texas men arrested in recent weeks are facing the possibility of life in prison after being caught with small amounts of edible marijuana products, and that has resulted in an outcry from some residents of Amarillo who say that's just too harsh.

Potter County deputies busted Eli Manna, 30, and Andrew George, 27, after stopping them for a traffic violation on March 16, reports JC Cortez at the Amarillo Globe-News. A search of the vehicle yielded seven purple brownies weighing a total of 650 grams, which triggered the most severe punishment range for marijuana possession under Texas law.

More than 400 grams means 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Texas law nonsensically considers the weight of the infused food rather than just its marijuana content when calculating sentencing. According to the law, "adulterants and diluents" are to be considered part of the total volume of controlled substances, which makes absolutely no sense when it comes to cannabis edibles.

Just 10 days later, troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested Fernando Bejarano, 19, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, after stopping him for a traffic violation. Troopers found more than 800 grams of commercially packaged baked goods and candies containing THC, the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.

Missouri: Bill Introduced To Release Jeff Mizanskey From Life Sentence For Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a very rare move, a Missouri legislator has proposed a bill to free one man from prison. That happened this week when Rep. Shamed Dogan filed House Bill 978, which would allow a parole board to release any prisoner serving a life sentence for nonviolent marijuana charges.

There's only one man in the state who fits that description, of course: Jeff Mizanskey, 61, a grandfather who has spent more than 20 years behind bars because of Missouri's horrific three-strike law for drug crimes, reports Danny Wicentowski at Riverfront Times.

H.B. 978 doesn't mention Mizanskey by name, but freshman lawmaker Dogan made his intentions clear in a press release in which he called Mizanskey's sentence "a miscarriage of justice."

"It is unconscionable to me that this man, who is no danger to society, will spend the rest of his life in prison at taxpayer expense," Dogan said. "Many of my legislative colleagues have come together to implore the governor to commute Mr. Mizanskey's life sentence, but to date the governor has done nothing more than promise to review Jeff's case before he leaves office."

U.S.: 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Serving Life Sentence For Marijuana

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Racing fans might wonder whatever happened to one the world’s most exciting young stars, 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Randy Lanier. These days, Lanier can be found at Coleman Federal Prison in Florida where he is in his 26th year of incarceration serving a sentence of life without parole for a first time, nonviolent marijuana offense.

At the time of his indictment, Lanier was poised to become one of racing’s all time greats. In 1980 he had four wins in his own, self-financed 1957 Porsche Speedster. In 1984 he earned the IMSA GTP Championship and was named “Most Improved Driver.” His 1986 Vanderbilt Rookie of the Year award preceded his 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year nod. By 1987, the United States federal government had put an end to his racing dreams.

Lanier had no prior offenses, and no weapons were involved in the “continuing criminal enterprise” he was accused of running, While others were indicted and incarcerated, only Lanier and one other remain behind bars.

Like most prisoners serving life sentences for marijuana Lanier’s refusal to “cooperate,” in other words indict others, helped bring about his sentence of “natural death” in prison.

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