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One could make the argument that as civilization has persisted the recognition of human rights, and the justice system has improved. After all it’s no longer common in most countries to publicly behead those who violate religious edicts, bury astronomers alive for failing to predict stellar events, or place radical visionaries and scientists under house arrest for exposing points of view counter to the current zeitgeist. One could almost go as far as to say that we live in a civilized time…but then there’s the story of Richard DeLisi.
In 1989 Richard DeLisi was sentenced to ninety, yes you read that right, ninety years in prison for marijuana trafficking and conspiracy, among other marijuana related “crimes”. Early last month DeLisi, now at the age of sixty-five, had his sentenced reviewed by the courts in order to determine whether or not his charges should be reduced to a second degree misdemeanor.
Sadly, this was turned down and DeLisi’s sentence will continue, albeit reduced a few years for good behavior, and will end in the year of 2026, when DeLisi turns 77. Since DeLisi’s lawyers appeal has been turned down this will make Richard DeLisi the United States longest-serving inmate for a non-violent marijuana “crime”. Let’s also keep in mind that the penalty for DeLisi’s “crime” is normally around a dozen to seventeen years.
Now let’s compare this to some recent convictions which also constitute actual crimes and see how they compare. For example, one 21-year old Kansas man, Steven Bradford, was convicted by the courts late last year of raping an eleven-year old girl and he has only been sentenced to eight years of probation as well as a suspended jail sentence.
Part of the reason for this is because the eleven year old in the case lied about her age, and the defendant’s lack of past sexual crimes, that Bradford should only be charged with raping an adult. However, normally this would mean Bradford would be sentenced to about fifteen years imprisonment and likely be required to register on the sex offender registry. But thanks to the unusual circumstances of the case, as well as Bradford’s plea of “no contest”, and lastly the judges extreme leniency means that this predator will, in essence, walk free, yet a marijuana distributor will be facing what is likely the rest of his life behind bars.
It’s easy to get cynical about such grievous injustices but this is something that all people in and outside the marijuana community should pay attention to. After decades of paranoia and misinformation the campaign against marijuana has helped produce a legal system which imprisons a man innocent of any wrongdoing, and also one where a pedophile can rape a child and get away with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
For those of you who are interested in supporting and helping to aid Richard DeLisi you should visit Human Solution International, an advocacy group devoted to secure DeLisi’s freedom, as well as the Clemency Report and Change.org.