A coalition of criminal justice reform advocates—including several Republican officials and a major basketball star—recently delivered a letter to President Trump, imploring him to grant pardons or commutations to people serving time in federal prison for non-violent marijuana offenses.
Weldon Angelos, who himself was convicted over cannabis and handed a mandatory minimum sentence before a court cut his sentence and released him, led the effort. He’s since become a reform advocate, and he rallied support for the new letter from a wide range of politicians, activists, entertainment figures and legal experts.
“On behalf of cannabis offenders serving federal prison sentences, their loved ones, and supporters across the country, we strongly urge you to immediately being the process of granting clemency to those serving federal time for non-violent cannabis offenses,” the letter, signed by several Republican state lawmakers, a former federal prosecutor, Koch Industries and NBA champion Kevin Garnett, among others, states. “Our nation’s view of cannabis has evolved, and it is indefensible to incarcerate citizens based on the unduly harsh attitudes of past generations.”
The letter, which was delivered to a staffer at the White House late last month, notes that Trump has expressed support for states’ rights to enact their own marijuana programs and it appeals to the president’s desire to accomplish unilaterally what Congress has been unable to do.
“We respectfully urge you to begin the process of identifying and granting clemency to those serving federal time for cannabis offenses, particularly those who were prosecuted in states where cannabis is now legal. We stand by to help in any way possible.”
“[W]hile there are a number of proposals being introduced in Congress to finally put an end to cannabis prohibition, they tend to lack any real avenue of relief for those who are serving time for selling cannabis,” it continues. “Given the timidity of this proposed legislation, the gridlock in Congress, and the imperative fo freedom, clemency is the right tool to fix this problem.”
Angelos, who launched the cannabis reform advocacy campaign Mission Green, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that while comprehensive cannabis reform is important, the “more urgent need is to at least free those who were following state law or are in states where it’s legal now.”
“I think those ones are a no-brainer and low-hanging fruits that I think the president could take care of immediately,” he said. “Then we can work with Congress to try to have broader solutions to the problems than just clemency. Clemency can only do so much.”
Among the more than 50 signatories are two individuals whose sentences Trump previously commuted, along with representatives of #cut50, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Terra Tech Corp and Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Actor Danny Trejo and the New Haven police chief also signed the request.
“I urge President Trump to use his power to grant clemency for the thousands of individuals who are currently federally incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses,” MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins told Marijuana Moment. “As cannabis reform continues to move forward at the federal and state level, it is of the utmost importance to take action that works to correct the injustices that prohibition has caused for too many Americans.”
While Trump has previously indicated that he’s in favor of letting states set their own cannabis laws, his administration has also taken some heat from reform advocates recently after his budget plan last month proposed ending a rider preventing the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere in the implementation of such programs.
On Friday, he appointed a new White House chief of staff who consistently voted against marijuana reform measures as a member of Congress.
Read the marijuana clemency letter to Trump below:
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.