Help Needed: Release Five Lifetime Marijuana Prisoners

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director December 14, 2012

    [Editor’s note: Along with signing the below White House petition encouraging the president to grant clemency to these federal prisoners with life sentences for cannabis-only related offenses, please take a moment to do something even more important and write letters of support to the clemency petition to both the President (1600 Pennsylvania, NW, Washington, DC, 20500-0004) and the Office of Pardon Attorney (1425 New York Ave., NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20530) asking for immediate commutation of these prisoners’ sentences.

    Additionally, please mention each man by name: John Knock, Paul Free, William Dekle, Larry Duke and Charles Cundiff.]

    Cannabis Prohibition is ending in America (and likely soon around the world too). It is not going to end without prolonged legal, political and regulatory battles. This is well known and anticipated by reformers.

    Social justice movements take decades to build up credibility, social impetus and political saliency. There are, necessarily, many angles by which cannabis prohibition laws can be assaulted: legislation, binding voter initiatives and impact litigation.

    Recently, the law office of Michael Kennedy (the principle behind Trans High Corporation, publishers of High Times Magazine; lifetime member of NORML Legal member) filed an historic legal petition with the federal government seeking clemency for five elderly prisoners serving lifetime sentences for cannabis-only related crimes. In the many hundreds of debates and discussions I’ve had with law enforcement officials and elected policymakers about the need to replace cannabis prohibition laws with logical alternatives, I’m vexed to no end when they make the ridiculous claim: ‘no one gets arrested for marijuana anymore and certainly no one is incarcerated for the stuff!’

    To wit, 1) there are over 750,000 annual cannabis arrests (90% for possession-only) that generate many tens of thousands of cannabis-only offenders sent to jail or prison, and 2) these five men are serving lifetime sentences, for a product that is no longer contraband in two states, decriminalized in fourteen states and eighteen states (and the District of Columbia) now have medical cannabis laws (with six states allowing commercial retail access to the herb with a physician’s recommendation).

    This federal petition to release these men back to their loving families and to get off the tax roll is born out of the non-profit organization called Life For Pot (where the groups is tracking at least twenty prisoners serving life sentences for cannabis-only related offenses), the heart felt project of volunteer Beth Curtis.

    Mr. Obama indicated to ABC News that ‘he has bigger fish to fry’ when asked about what if anything the feds are going to regarding Colorado and Washington voters recently approving cannabis legalization measures. Whether the president is going to expend any political capital at all in actually advancing cannabis law reforms in his last four years remains to be seen, but, the man should act post haste, giving a nod to the new legal era America has entered regarding cannabis prohibition, on this well researched and written petition by granting clemency to these former and now elderly pot cultivators and smugglers.

    We can all help place greater public focus and attention on this federal petition by letting the White House know that President Obama should ‘do the right thing’ and pardon these lifetime prisoners for growing and supplying cannabis to a willing and wonting population of cannabis consumers while unpopular (and largely unenforceable) prohibition laws were still in place.

    Please help Mr. Kennedy’s petition for clemency, Beth’s life’s work and these five cannabis prisoners by signing the White House petition to act favorably upon it. You can review the petition here.


    34 Responses to “Help Needed: Release Five Lifetime Marijuana Prisoners”

    1. Audrey says:

      i believe this that people who deals with pot or smokes pot as long no weapons or other records should be released if people use gun or kill someone or some like that should be arrested that makes sense to me cuz they not used weapons and go jail for long time takes lot of taxes to pay for their food and room. does this make sense. and over 21 too like drinking but iam not like drinking . its worst than pot. thats how i feel and good for people who need it for medical reason. i believe this . i dont see anything wrong with pot and whats more how did that plant get here on earth in first place. ?? george washington and thomas jefferson both were hemp farmers and smoked it too they are Presidents. hope u all try figure this out.

    2. snafu23 says:

      Thanks for this! NORML, keep going!

      Expect another donation from me soon.

    3. […] NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Be Sociable, Share! Tweet […]

    4. Voice of the Resistance says:


    5. beth curtis says:

      Thank you for promoting this Petition for Commutation for non-violent elderly inmates serving sentences of Life Without Parole for selling marijuana. They should be released – petition site https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/relieve-five-elderly-federal-prisoners-life-without-parole-sentences-marijuana/nRkGWXx6

    6. Linda Sherman says:

      Isn’t it about time. Seriously, Life for marijuana. Good god, they’ve legalized it in some states. Let them go.

    7. jeb says:

      In the movie “The Union,” a statistic is offered, that one-third, 33%, one-out-of-three arrests is for cannabis related “offenses,” and mostly for possession only.

      One-third! of all arrests, arrests made for cannabis. Use of cannabis is not a crime at all–by extension possession is not a crime. Free-market commerce of cannabis is not a crime.

      Second, prohibition kills competition, of hemp agriculture, cannabis medicine and recreation, and preventative health care cannabis provides.

      During the Red Scare and Cold War, criticisms of Communism usually included the argument that state-run business has/had an annihilating effect on competition and a healthy market system. Prohibitionists act to destroy competition by removing an immensely valuable commodity from the market…on pain of medieval punishments.

      Calling cannabis “illegal” is arbitrary and stupid; it’s not a crime. It used to be illegal to help runaway slaves. That wasn’t a crime either, but another example of unjust, out-dated, and ultimately harmful and unenforceable legislation.

      Considering all the murders, assaults, rapes, robberies, burglaries, damage to property, white-collar banking larceny, all sorts of crimes that deserve a punishment fitting the offense…it is a travesty.

      About one-third of all arrests are cannabis related which means something is very wrong will the legal/court/justice system. The justice system is frighteningly unbalanced in terms of understanding the concept “public safety.”

      All this nonsense comes from one source, the result of arbitrarily labeling cannabis as “schedule 1″ by certain (fail) federal bureaucratic agencies. It’s obvious the scheduling system is a crock, ok? It’s sad more bureaucrats are too afraid or derelict to admit it.

    8. Wayne says:

      Let My People Go!End the war on our people!

    9. Benji Curtis says:

      My view on my Uncle Johns situation is just this. He did the crime and has served his time. I can only ramble on and compare the gun issues and alcohol issues at large, but the bottom line is, John has a wife and a son, a supportive family and has been nothing but a trophy to the system. He is involved in helping others in nearly every way possible behind bars. 19 years for bringing marihuana to Canada. I’ve broke the law too, have you? The federal level is not forgiving and needs to look hard a this petition for clemency.

    10. steve says:

      mr. president, please do the right thing. With polotics aside, you know its the right thing to do.

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