As the wave of marijuana legalization sweeps the country, some states are trying to right the wrongs perpetrated against members of the cannabis community during the shameful War on Drugs. The US has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and one in five incarcerated people are behind bars for drug crimes, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
One of the horrifying wrongs was giving Florida man Richard DeLisi a 90-year prison sentence for cannabis. Richard DeLisi has been incarcerated since 1989 when he was convicted on charges of racketeering, trafficking in cannabis and conspiracy after agreeing to help smuggle more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Colombia into Florida.
This month, the 71-year old was released from South Bay Correctional Facility. Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that works to free people serving sentences for cannabis offenses, announced that they were working with pro bono attorneys Chiara Juster, Elizabeth Buchanan, and Michael Minardi to supplement DeLisi’s previously filed clemency application earlier this year.
DeLisi was behind bars for 32 years, making him the longest-serving nonviolent cannabis prisoner in the US. His wife, son and both parents died during his time in prison. He told CNN that he was looking forward to reuniting with his two living children and to holding his five grandchildren for the first time. “I am so excited to hug my children and grandchildren. I have missed so many important moments with them and I can’t wait to get out there and create precious memories with everyone. I am so thrilled that this dark chapter of my life is finally over.”
DeLisi wants to work as an activist now that he has been released, to try and make a difference and change the system that put him in prison for 32 years. Many are outraged about how DeLisi has been treated. Lead attorney Chiara Juster called the original sentence “a sick indictment of our nation.”
Read more about Richard DeLisi and the story behind his arrest and conviction at freedelisi.com.