• by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director April 21, 2015


    Our friends at High Times have launched a new campaign to call national attention to the next logical step in the country’s progression towards marijuana legalization: Freeing America’s Pot Prisoners

    While the federal government has relaxed its stance on marijuana, allowing states to implement their own laws and no longer prosecuting businesses running in accordance with these laws, the status of those persecuted under old laws remains ignored. High Times’ petition calls for a rectification between the United States’ past marijuana laws and the current situation.

    “President Obama recently commuted 20-odd prisoners serving life for a first time drug offense,” says CEO of Trans High Corporation and volunteer lawyer for “Lifers for Pot” Michael Kennedy. “Nineteen of them were convicted of coke and meth crimes… clearly much more serious misdeeds than pot dealing, but the big O only commuted one marijuana lifer. While we at High Times totally support these commutations, we have to press the President to look more closely at our Lifers For Pot and free them forthwith!”

    The petition urges Attorney General Holder, as well as the Attorney General Designate, to recommend for the immediate release of all non-violent marijuana offenders and to provide new sentencing guidelines to give law enforcement other options besides imprisoning non-violent offenders. In 2013, 693,482 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation and of those, 609,423 (88 percent) were charged only with possession.

    Even in California, where marijuana prisoners are beginning to be released, 482 non-violent marijuana offenders remain in prison, which is not only a high human cost but a huge cost to taxpayers. For this reason, High Times is soliciting Attorney General Kamala Harris to act as an example for the other 49 states by immediately releasing these prisoners and recommending alternatives to incarceration for the use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.

    Some non-violent marijuana prisoners, such as Antonio Bascaró and Jeff Mizanskey, have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses for much of their lives. Both fear perishing in prison without seeing a country swept with marijuana reform. High Times hopes this petition can change the fates of these two men and the others still imprisoned for non-violent marijuana crimes.

    Recreational marijuana is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, medical use is legal in 24 others and 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legalized, regulated marijuana. This change in American perspective on marijuana, High Times argues, is the exact reason why non-violent offenders should be released.

    High Times’ petition is found at http://bit.ly/420Freedom.

    Signers are asked to spread word of the petition using #FreePotPrisoners across social media.

    20 responses to “#FreePotPrisoners”

    1. Are You Kidding? says:

      Obama keeps Bush’s drug warrior DEA Director and then claims he can’t get her to reschedule marijuana? And you take that at face value?

      There are tons of links of Democratic Congressmen requesting the president to reschedule marijuana and Obama and Holder falsely asserting only Congress can do it. Use the Google.

      And… if you think the courts are faster than executive action you are delusional. The courts move like glaciers and even if you do get a district judge to order reclassification, the drug warriors will appeal to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.

      How long does that take?

      Your insistence that the president is helpless is absurd.

      Obama has been president for 7 years now. Had he wanted marijuana rescheduled it would have been.

      He doesn’t.

      And let me tell a little story.

      Immediately after Obama was elected, OFA ran a series of polls asking people to select issues they wanted Obama to work on.

      Marijuana prohibition won every time but was totally ignored by the Administration.

      That was the first tipoff thst Obama was not on the level on cannabis.

      If you still insist upon your illusion of presidential impotence, go for it… but don’t wonder why your blind-in-one-eye advocacy has not led to marijuana rescheduling.

      [Paul Armentano responds: DEA administrator Michele Leonhart is expected to resign imminently: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dea-chief-michele-leonhart-expected-to-resign/.%5D

    2. Dave Evans says:

      Arresting, prosecuting and jailing of marijuana users, selling and/or producers is a huge waste of money. Every single dollar spent on this lunatic system carries with it the weight of even more wasted in money in the return of the negative investment in the form of Organized Crime. I’d like to know how much collateral damage this piece of shit War on Drugs has caused society.

      The easiest place to start fixing these problems is to end the jail time for marijuana and release all of the Marijuana Prisoners. Stop using them as an anchor weighting the economy down, these people are supposed to be working, not be housed in prisons!!!

    3. Dave Evans says:

      Just stop causing more damage. What the heck is hard to understand about it? Marijuana is already a big part of the economy, now stop using it as an excuse to Abuse your fellow Americans and spending government money in ways damaging to our economy and security.

    4. Miles says:

      If anyone should be locked in a prison it is Michelle Leonhart since she has been largely responsible for the soaring prison population with her moronic way of viewing things. It is unthinkable that the director of such a large govt agency would not understand the difference between marijuana and meth,or heroin, or the synthetic crap. Yet, right in front of congress, she displayed such ignorance. In spite of it, she still managed to keep her job (until the most recent sex related incident).

      OMG – Talk about stupid!

      Let’s get good people out of jails and prisons and start locking up the Leonhart nut-jobs instead. They are a huge burden to our society whereas your average pot prisoner used to have a job and a good future; many were in college when the goons came-a-callin’.

      Some day I hope to dance on Michelle Leonhart’s grave. We should all have a party right on it. The world will be a better place when she is gone for good. By the way, I feel mostly the same way about Kevin Sabet and his buddy Patrick Kennedy (of Project SAM).

    5. Julian says:

      Aaaaah… The hubris, or excess pride, of our tragic heroine… Or cocaine… Or Colombian prostitute infiltrating the Secret Service… Yes! I speak of our dearly departing Michelle Leonhart, Director of the DEA, due to step down in the middle of May.


      For those of us following the story of prohibition since the previous Summit of the Americas in 2012, (during the sex scandal in the Secret Service, which after Congressional investigation, it was revealed that the DEA lead the agents to the Ho-tells). …this was all predictable and yet none the less shocking, as it coincides with Lynch’s delay to be appointed as Attorney General… And… What’s this?! For WHAT… Pray tell, my dear Republican Congressman did we haste?…
      Oh… I’ll say it again; $#!+ just got real…
      …You mean at the SAME time we Americans are told what we knew all along; that our unconstitutional drug policy written by Drug Czar’s in the DOJ since 1970 was corrupting every agency ( and I quote the NYTimes): “…”the DEA, ATF, FBI AND the Federal Marshall’s office…” (End quote) …
      …AT THE SAME TIME!… Republicans in Congress were holding up Lynch’s nomination in order to get some twisted sex trafficking legislation past that makes it harder to provide funds to the victims of sex trafficking… Namely, some Colombian prostitutes whose passports were taken by their pimps… In Congress?
      Throughout this whole legalization process, logic prescribes that Congress would compromise on ending prohibition with legislation that would protect said Congressman from prosecution… For… Getting “high on their own supply… The supply of prohibited substances being marijuana, cocaine, prostitutes, and a monkey named “el machine.” (Okay, that last part about the monkey isn’t true… I think… That is, Congress and former female agents of the DEA infiltrated by cartel money, blank checks from Congress and WAY too many tax-payer funded sex parties… Yeah, that’s what I meant…)
      But With upcoming elections it’s too rich to predict where this sex party investigation will end.
      All you have to do is say the word “sex” in Congress and you officially lose the attention span of the majority. (We’re men; we can ‘t help it. The word “sex” is physiologically proven to make us stupid by relieving blood from our brains and feet and sending it to our penis). Clearly, Colombian cartels have been able to exploit this weakness in our rogue agencies in the DOJ… Even with a female who defended herself to Congress stating “I have no control over my agents,” followed by the reply to the question “then what CAN you do,” of which silence spoke volumes as Congress collectively thought, “well, join the sex parties if course.” I have to say isnt it fascinating to see the facial expressions of Congress through all this? It’s like some of these guys are angry, like “whuh.. Whell why the hell whuznt I invited?”
      (And hey, how come the CIA is getting forgotten when it was they who started the whole conspiracy of using U.S. planes and agencies to push cocaine into the U.S. In the first place?)
      We all knew Leonhart was a puppet cartel within our own government. Some of us have heard the cloak and dagger stories from when the DEA was formed in the seventies when Griselda Blanca, infamously known as the Black Widow of Colombia infiltrated the DEA by sleeping with an agent and opening up the cocaine market like no one else could. (And opened up a few other things… But look out! She kills her husbands… But then was assassinated in the 90s by her own brand of shotgun riding bitch on a trials bike. Helluva way to go.)
      But what was less obvious was how Congressional Republicans would scramble like cockroaches when the shit hits the fan.
      The wonderful thing is that WE brought the truth out. We did it through education and activism. Through NORML, the DPA and Change.org. Congress knew it was the DEA that lead the Secret Service to prostitutes all along,,, shit, theyre suspect! But leaving laptops and weapons in the care of disgruntled building managers? Wow. The DEA and Colombian cartels really ARE joined at the hip.
      Ever since the last Summit of the Americas in 2012 when the OAS outlined a new drug policy approach based on regulation and diplomatic education over enforcement and interdiction, the sex scandaks were a decoy for the media… A distraction from focusing in drug policy. Could the DEA have been so callous and arrogant that they didn’t think blaming the Secret Service would lead to THEM? Apparently so.
      The difference then only 3 years ago, in 2012, support for legalization was polling just below %50 and Obama was trying to get reelected. Now, faced with the interests of national security, Obama is in his last two years of office and about to appoint a new Attorney General and DEA director with the whole world watching.
      I wonder if the “Drug Education Administration” would be a fine replacement for the DEA under the new “Corrective Sustainability Act,” (to replace the failed, unconstitutional C.S.Act).
      NORML, we’re going to need an advisory board in the United Nations. $#!+ just got real.

    6. Just An Observer says:

      The War On Some Drugs has generated it’s share of war criminals on the government level. Think back to the war crimes trials at the end of World War II. Back then we executed the worst of them and imprisoned the rest who were found guilty. The same needs to happen today.

    7. Eric K. Johnson says:

      [Paul Armentano responds: DEA administrator Michele Leonhart is expected to resign imminently:)

      She has been DEA chief since 2008 and re-appointed by President Obama in 2012.

      Why didn’t President Obama rid us of this (so obviously) biased incompetent official sooner by not re-appointing her in the first place?

    8. Eric K. Johnson says:

      During her first day of confirmation hearings for attorney general, nominee Loretta Lynch gave answers that seemed in line with President Obama. But then she was asked about marijuana, and whether she supports legalizing it.

      “Senator, I do not,” Lynch told Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., when he asked whether she supports making pot legal. – NPR

      [Editor’s note: Obama publicly claims to not support cannabis legalization, therefore it is hardly a surprise that his AG nominee does not either. However, freeing cannabis prisoners is not the same as supporting cannabis’ legalization, and both the president and AG have political maneuvering room to make the distinction publicly.]

    9. Eric K. Johnson says:


      Thanks for the clarification?

      Who does anyone suppose President Obama will appoint @D.E.A. ?

    10. Julian says:

      Isn’t it interesting though, now that Lynch has FINALLY been elected, that in order to succeed in Obama’s agenda to reduce the disproportionate incarceration of minorities they will be forced to amend or nullify the Controlled Substances Act?

      Obama immediately praised Lynch after her votes went through as a key to “bridging” the gap between law enforcement and communities of color.

      They must realize, regardless of what they say about legalization, that in order to succeed in their own agenda they must completely amend the Controlled Substance Act into a Drug Education Act. Executive orders are not enough; Another president can always reverse them.

      And you can cut off the head of the snake, but as long as the C.S.Act stands, the head will grow back, perhaps into something even worse than Leonhart. (Which is hard to imagine, but possible).

      Congress: Write appropriate Drug Policy! Stop giving your job to the executive branch and private prison owners!