Despite recent strides towards the decriminalization of marijuana possession in America, several individuals still await their eventual death… locked away in prison cells for life without parole, or defacto life, because they had committed non-violent offences related to the harmless plant.
Beth Curtis, sister of a man sentenced to life because of marijuana, is one of the few people who keep an account of people like her brother.
“Twenty years ago I received a phone call informing me that my youngest brother had been indicted for a marijuana conspiracy in Florida. Our lives have never been the same. John was missing, then picked up by Interpol and held in Prison de la Sante in France till his extradition to the Northern District of Florida in 1999. When he went to trial in 2000, he was found guilty of three conspiracy charges and given a sentence of two life terms plus twenty.
We were stunned that a first time nonviolent marijuana offender could receive a sentence of this magnitude.
When John’s appeals were completed, I wanted to know if there were other nonviolent marijuana offenders who had received life without parole and I started the web site Life for Pot and began to gather their stories.”
Here are just a few of the most egregious cases on record:
Hernandez worked as a day laborer, earning just 50 dollars a day. He cannot speak much English at all, and was made by a boss to keep watch over 3,100 pounds of marijuana. It turns out that the Drug Enforcement Agency was conducting a reverse sting, and he became a convenient scapegoat. At 76 years of age, he has been imprisoned for 22 years so far.
A veteran of the Vietnam war, Kubinski was awarded three purple hearts and a bronze star. He fought and risked his life on multiple occasions for his country, but was unable to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was induced by his war-time experiences. Marijuana provided relief to him. Ironically, it was not the Vietnamese, his physical wounds, or the PTSD that would prove most detrimental to his life – it would be his own country that arrested him several years later, and sentenced him to life without parole. 23 years have passed, Kubinski is now 68 years old.
Free was arrested while teaching English in Mexico, and was convicted of marijuana trafficking. His defense counsel claimed that the DEA had framed him for a crime he did not commit – affidavits from witnesses who had earlier testified to his guilt during the trial, now show that they were strong-armed into testifying against him. They now claim that he is innocent, and that the real culprit is a man that the DEA was trying to protect. At 65 years of age, he has been in prison for 22 years.
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