‘There are still people serving life sentences for marijuana only, nonviolent, and their stories have to be told.’
BOULDER, Colo. (Sept. 14, 2021) – While 66% of Americans can access medical marijuana and 43% can utilize it recreationally, dozens of Americans are serving life sentences for nonviolent, marijuana-only drug charges. Criminal Justice Reform Advocate Beth Curtis recently joined Wana Brands’ Enhance Your Life Podcast to discuss how she used her background in non-profit work to focus her mission on founding Life For Pot in 2008.
Curtis’ entire life path changed in 1994 when her brother, John Knock, was sentenced to two life sentences for a non-violent marijuana offense. Curtis and her family quickly went from being naive and optimistic to recognizing the unjust failures of the War on Drugs. She shares a few of the many things she did to advocate for her brother’s release, which occurred in January 2021 on President Trump’s final day in office.
In the episode, Curtis discusses the power of storytelling to show the human aspect of those wrongly incarcerated, the responsibility within the cannabis industry to step up, and how others can get involved with advocacy for the innocent. As she turns 80 this year, Curtis is determined to lend her voice to ensure that others carry the cause of social justice for nonviolent cannabis offenses. Some highlights from the podcast include:
On the continued imprisonment of marijuana-only cases: “There are still people serving life sentences for marijuana only, nonviolent, and their stories have to be told and people have to care about it. Lots of people do not believe it’s possible that someone would get a life sentence for a nonviolent marijuana offense.”
On the need for action: “You can get a lot of support by sharing stories, but in order to have results, there has to be legislation or executive clemency. That’s the only way that they will be released. Otherwise they will die in a cage, and it’s a sickening thing to think that we’re doing that with nonviolent citizens because of cannabis.”
On the chance of a prisoner securing clemency: “Getting clemency is like being struck by lightning. It’s a tragedy.”
On advocacy around federal sentencing categories: “I wish [the category of marijuana offenses] would be part of the dialogue on a federal level with sentencing advocacy groups, but it isn’t right now.”
On the imbalance of state and federal marijuana laws: The best thing that’s happened – the best and the worst thing. The best thing is the rise of legalization state by state, although even though people think that it’s legal in their state, the legality of marijuana has not changed one bit federally. Marijuana is still in the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it’s designated as more dangerous than fentanyl and OxyContin.”
On integrity in the system: “There can’t be integrity in the criminal justice system or in the cannabis industry as long as there are people serving these kinds of sentences for the same product.”
Wana Brands: Enhance Your Life.
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