CA Democratic Party Calls on President Obama to Pardon Marijuana Lifers

Lanny Swerdlow, Marijuana Lifer Project Board of Directors

Lanny Swerdlow of the Marijuana Lifer Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club

CA Democratic Party Gives Public Display of Support to Marijuana Lifers

JUNE, 2016 — Marijuana Lifer Project board member Lanny Swerdlow, a delegate to the California Democratic Party and the founder of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club, recently introduced a resolution on behalf of the Brownie Mary Clubs calling on President Obama to grant clemency to prisoners serving life sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses.  We are most happy to report that the party DID adopt the resolution.

Lanny actually introduced the resolution last year, but it was too late to to be voted on at the time, so it carried over to this session.  We are thrilled for this public show of support for the people paying the ultimate price in the war on cannabis, those serving Life Without Parole in federal prisons.  Here is the resolution:

Resolution Requesting President Obama to Grant Executive Clemency to Federal Prisoners Serving Life Without Parole Sentences for Non-Violent Marijuana Offenses

Submitted by:
Brownie Mary Democratic Club of Los Angeles County
Brownie Mary Democratic Club of Riverside County

WHEREAS at least forty-five people are in federal prisons serving Life Without Parole sentences for non-violent marijuana offenses

And Whereas 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the use of cannabis when recommended by a physician and four states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws legalizing the recreational use of cannabis,

Whereas President Obama has granted 89 clemencies mostly for prisoners sentenced under mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the California Democratic Party requests: President Obama to grant executive clemency and commute the sentences of all prisoners in federal prison serving life-time sentences for non-violent marijuana offenses.

About Life Without Parole Sentences for Marijuana

People serving sentences of Life Without Parole (LWOP) and de-facto life (sentences so egregiously long they might as well have been life sentences) for nonviolent marijuana offenses are one of this nation’s dirty little secrets.  Most American citizens are unaware they even exist.  In fact when advocates traveled to Washington, DC last year and held signs in front of the White House with pictures of some of these prisoners, government workers came up to inquire “What country are these men incarcerated in?”

First Time Offender Craig Cesal is serving life for marijuana.

First Time Offender Craig Cesal is serving life for marijuana.

While we do not know exactly how many people are serving life for marijuana, advocates have already identified over twenty federal cases and more come to light all the time.  The majority of these men are now senior citizens who have been incarcerated for decades — our longest serving marijuana prisoner is 81 years old and has been behind bars for over 35 years.  Many are in extremely poor health. However, the practice of handing out life sentences for marijuana continues.  Our newest identified nonviolent marijuana lifer, California native Corvain Cooper, received his life sentence in 2014.

Some of the men serving LWOP are first time offenders.  Almost all were caught in a marijuana conspiracy case.  Conspiracy holds one person responsible for the crimes of an entire group, regardless of how much or how little the person had to do with the crime.  It takes no actual evidence to convict someone of a conspiracy offense, only the testimony of others trying to avoid prison time themselves.  In some of the cases, mandatory minimums and 3-strike laws came into play. Some of the marijuana lifers imported large amounts of cannabis.  Others had absolutely nothing to do with it, never seeing or touching marijuana at all.

Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda is serving Life for Marijuana

Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda is serving Life for Marijuana

Anyone who takes their case to trial and loses is punished far more severely than if they had “cooperated.”  This is how low level people such as Craig Cesal, who repaired the trucks that hauled marijuana, or Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda, an illiterate day laborer who has charged with watching a storehouse of marijuana, ended up serving life while the true “kingpins” of the operation did little to no prison time and lost no assets.

Warehousing nonviolent marijuana prisoners, who never posed a real danger to society, away for decades is both fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible.  Without a Presidential commutation of sentence, these men are all destined to die in prison.

Presidential pardons for people serving sentences imposing life without parole for non-violent marijuana offenses would be in keeping with the course President Obama has set to alleviate the inhumane condition of over one million people in prison caused by mandatory minimums and the War on Drugs.


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