FEW would argue that Donald Trump’s presidency has been a roller coaster ride. But in his final days he made a decision that was undoubtedly a “win” for the cannabis community. By pardoning 12 prisoners convicted of cannabis-related crimes, the outgoing president shed some light on the many flaws in the system. When we take a look at the stories behind them, we can see many common factors with other prisoners. One only has to look at the statistics of who are the faces behind prison bars to wonder if there really is justice.
Given these circumstances, advocates and activists were quick to praise this action, as there is hope that this is the beginning of a new era for cannabis after legalization at the state level, evidencing at the same time the great support for policy reforms. In this sense, many hope that this action will be repeated with the entry of the new president, since it is no secret to anyone that there are still a large number of people who spend their days in prison because of the despotic policy of criminalization of cannabis.
There are 12 people, including a woman and each case is different For example there is the case of 61-year-old Craig Cesal, who was serving a life sentence for possession and distribution of cannabis. “My crime was that my truck repair business in Chicago was fixing trucks operated by a Florida long-haul trucking company whose drivers were trafficking cannabis in the South,” he said. In this regard, according to a statement issued by the White House, Cesal possessed a good demeanor, which is why he expected his return to society to be smooth. At the same time, 58-year-old Ferrell Damon Scott was about to serve the first decade of a life sentence for possession with intent to distribute cannabis at the time of Trump’s release.
Scott was reportedly arrested for carrying cannabis, which is now legal in several states. He did not accept the 12-year plea bargain, claiming that it was too long for a cannabis issue, but unfortunately he ended up incarcerated. According to this, it was mentioned in the White House that the prosecutor who handled the case does not consider that Scott deserves such a long sentence. These are some of the cases of the 12 prisoners who received a pardon.
Following, it is important to mention who are usually the people who, due to social or racial circumstances, are the first to be sent to prison, not only in the United States, but also in the rest of America. According to a 2017 study by Drugs and Regional Law, incarceration for drug offenses has especially affected certain populations, where social and economic inequality reign supreme in arrests.
It is common to severely punish those who are more socially vulnerable and who have no power in the drug market, where women, young people and especially foreigners stand out. It is almost normal that these arrests are especially of individuals who do not have a good education, who live in street conditions or extreme poverty or sometimes have jobs whose salaries are not enough for their basic needs.
In most cases these are people who are either consumers or micro-vendors. For example, in Argentina, at least 85% of the people imprisoned for drug offenses in 2013 had not finished high school, while 31% had not completed primary school. At the same time, 82% did not have a stable job and 44% did not have a career or trade, only 60% received a sentence ranging from 3 to 9 years of imprisonment. 69% had committed a drug-related crime for the first time.
Another example is Brazil, where 24-year-olds have been imprisoned, among them young people of African descent, with few educational opportunities and poor, where drug trafficking was the most frequent crime. As in Argentina, many had no knowledge of basic schooling. While in Colombia according to the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC) in 2016 young people had barely managed to finish primary school and were also living in poverty.
It could be said that despite the passage of time, the profile of people arrested and imprisoned for drug trafficking is strictly selective. Not only in the U.S. but also in Latin American countries. According to these data, the authorities focus on looking for those who are uneducated, foreign, African-American, unemployed or living in extreme poverty.