Prisoners Charged With Cannabis Offenses Are Being Released
Since California’s legalization of medical cannabis, in 1996, several states have followed suit and provided a more modern approach to dealing with cannabis.
From medical use to recreational use in 22 states and Washington D.C., you can now legally use marijuana! In many states, it has also become decriminalized, protecting minor offenders (who would have previously been prosecuted for a dime bag) from the headache of an unnecessary arrest.
As a country, overall in the past 25 years, we have come a long way in the fight for legalizing marijuana. For those of us who are free and able to partake in these new legal marijuana outlets, it is wonderful and is a time for celebration.
Some of our brothers and sisters did NOT make it to the GREEN AGE of legalization, without a detour through prison.
Across the country thousands of men and women still sit behind bars, serving out time on minor marijuana offenses. Some of them are even being SLAPPED with the label of felons. Since the changing of many laws, some of these so-called “offenders” have been able to have their sentences overturned and are being set free.
There have been many “cannabis offenders” throughout the years, go to prison and be released.
Here are a few updates on those who were imprisoned due to marijuana or are currently on their way out.
One of the most talked about prisoners released after new marijuana laws were implemented, Mr. Mizanskey spent two decades in prison for a non-violent marijuana charge. He was arrested in 1996 for the intent to distribute nearly 6 pounds of marijuana. Mr. Mizanskey was charged with a life sentence with no option for parole. Although it is still illegal to distribute marijuana without proper protocol and licensing, this sentence was quite harsh even for the time. Jeff was a non-violent offender who only had two previous, minor arrests on his record, which were also non-violent. In 2015, the new Governor of Missouri, where Mizanskey was serving his time, reversed the decision of the court and allowed him to walk free.
In 1993 James Tranmer was sentenced to 420 months or 35 years in prison for conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. He has continued to promote the benefits of marijuana from behind bars and is still active in his Rastafarian based faith. James was sentenced for helping his son financially with a marijuana smuggling venture. His son also served time for the same case. He pled his case to President Obama, seeking Presidential clemency. In 2017 Tranmer received his wish and was granted clemency in President Obama’s last round of clemencies. He was released on May 19, 2017, at the age of 73 after spending 24 years in prison.
Paul Free was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in 1995. This non-violent charge that was weakly substantiated has led to a decades-long fight for freedom. Paul has been incarcerated in California trying to find a lawyer that can help him successfully overturn his charges for the past 22 years. When he was originally charged, there were multiple witnesses that stated he was not the person who distributed them marijuana, as well as having multiple pieces of evidence which place him away from the scene of the crime. Finally, in 2017 Free was given a glimmer of hope when he was granted clemency by President Obama. He is set to be released in the next few years and will be able to assimilate back into normal life with his brother down in Mexico.
In 2005 Craig Frazier was charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a non-violent offense. Frazier was caught in an unfair situation where he was charged, on the premises, that he had WAY more marijuana in his possession than he actually did. Even based off of the amount of marijuana he had, Frazier was charged with four times the mandatory minimum for his case. He was treated this way in the Montana court system. After 7 years in prison with a clean record, Frazier was granted clemency and released on December 18, 2016. He plans to attend college back in his home state of Montana.
Our last update on a marijuana prisoner does not end as well as the previous few. Dustin Costa is still incarcerated at the Lompoc prison in Lompoc, California. He was running a small-scale marijuana grow farm that catered exclusively to patients. Costa stuck strictly to the rules laid out in prop 215 but was still arrested. He was charged with several different marijuana offenses and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Costa is now 71 years old and has been in prison since 2005. Not only were his crimes non-violent, but he was also helping around 300 patients have access to the healing, medicinal qualities of marijuana at the time of his arrest. Costa is still an avid cannabis supporter and looks forward to the future when it is legalized everywhere. Although he may never see life beyond prison bars again he is grateful for the support of others through letter correspondence and continues to enjoy advocating marijuana in any way that he can.
With new laws being implemented throughout the states we can only hope for more stories the end in 100% release for non-violent cannabis charges.
The harsh, draconian laws of the past no longer need to be upheld. As marijuana becomes legalized for medical and recreational use across the country, it will at the very least lead to fewer marijuana arrests and fewer prisoners in general. Violent drug offenders should most definitely STILL be prosecuted! However, for non-violent marijuana situations, there is no need for ANYONE to serve out the rest of their life behind bars.