Repeatedly defraud financial institutions and the government? Get 47 months in prison.
Illegally possess marijuana in a prohibition state? That’s a 12-year sentence, pal.
A lot of people, including U.S. senators, are picking up on this ludicrous sentencing disparity on full display in a case involving Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The former lobbyist was convicted of over a dozen financial fraud charges. While prosecutors recommended that he serve roughly 20 years, a judge decided on Thursday that was too harsh a sentence.
The decision immediately inspired a slew of tweets, with many giving examples of cases where non-violent cannabis offenses have put people in prison for much longer. One post, about the aforementioned 12-year sentence for simple possession, already has more than 10,000 retweets.
— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) March 8, 2019
But it’s not just activists who are taking note of the criminal justice imbalance. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Angus King (I-ME) have also raised the issue.
People are sometimes sent to prison for longer than 47 months for non violent marijuana offenses.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) March 8, 2019
Warren tweeted about Fate Winslow, who is facing a life sentence for distributing $20 worth of marijuana.
Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, commits bank and tax fraud and gets 47 months. A homeless man, Fate Winslow, helped sell $20 of pot and got life in prison. The words above the Supreme Court say "Equal Justice Under Law"—when will we start acting like it?
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 8, 2019
Harris, who, like Warren, is currently seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, compared Manafort’s prison term to marijuana sentencing in a campaign stop in South Carolina.
.@KamalaHarris tears into the Manafort sentence, talking about the inequity of a man being sentence to 12 years for marijuana crime vs Manafort's white collar sentence. HUGE applause in this South Carolina BBQ spot. "Everyone should be treated equally under the law," says Harris
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) March 8, 2019
“We’re going to be flooded with stories in the next 24 hours about people with relatively minor offenses, selling an ounce of marijuana or stealing quarters from a laundry room with equivalent or greater sentences,” King told CNN on Friday.
.@SenAngusKing calls the Manafort sentence "astonishing."
"We’re going to be flooded with stories of people selling … an ounce of marijuana or stealing quarters from a laundry room with an equivalent or greater sentence." https://t.co/7ugXYVqHOL pic.twitter.com/amHyw1uIEm
— New Day (@NewDay) March 8, 2019
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) also chimed in.
-$55 million in bank and tax fraud.
-given 47 months.
Fate Vincent Winslow:
-sold $20 of marijuana.
-given LIFE IN PRISON.
Marijuana charges regularly net longer sentences than Manafort—we need #MarijuanaJustice to fix our broken system. https://t.co/q64uRKTWSP
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) March 8, 2019
So did Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
The failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color.
So-called law and order policies have unnecessarily wrecked millions of lives.
But a degenerate criminal like Paul Manafort gets a judicial slap on the wrist?
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) March 9, 2019
Elsewhere on Twitter, there was no shortage of outrage over the apparent judicial disconnect between sentences for white collar crimes and cannabis. Comedian and director Zack Bornstein joked that even his 4-year-old recognized the injustice.
OMG my 4-year-old just put down her Legos and said, “There are people serving longer sentences for marijuana possession than Manafort for helping dictators set up torture programs and committing high treason against the United States”
— Zack Bornstein (@ZackBornstein) March 8, 2019
Here are some more examples, in case the message hasn’t sunk in yet.
Paul Manafort committed fraud and got 47 months of prison.
Fate Vincent Winslow sold $20 of marijuana to a stranger and received a life sentence.
Our legal system is fucked up
— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) March 8, 2019
Oh I see, Manafort can commit massive tax fraud, launder Ukrainian oligarch money, violate a plea deal & give polling data to the Russians for cash, and do 47 months. But if I sold a few ounces of marijuana in Florida I get 5 years. Got it. #equaljustice #nojustice #Whitecollar
— Randi Rhodes (@RandiRhodes) March 8, 2019
Patrick Beadle, a father & traveling musician, is spending 8 years in a Mississippi prison for possessing medical marijuana he legally got in Oregon.
Judge Ellis gave Paul Manafort—tried for 18 crimes including money laundering, tax fraud & bank fraud—just 4 years. pic.twitter.com/DPuMhA0BGG
— Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) March 8, 2019
Lucky thing Manafort wasn’t found with a marijuana cigarette, been born black, or didn’t live “a blameless life” of representing dictators and the worst dregs of society. Otherwise he would have died in prison rather than taking a few years off in minimum security.
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) March 8, 2019
Paul Manafort gets 4 years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States, witness tampering, bank fraud, tax fraud, and basically being a traitor to our country.
Corvain Cooper gets life in prison at age 34 for a non-violent marijuana conviction.
🖕White privilege. pic.twitter.com/an5DzCe9cU
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) March 8, 2019
As Manafort is sentenced to just 4 years in prison, a reminder that a black man in Mississippi was sentenced to 8 years in prison for possession of marijuana purchased legally in another state. https://t.co/2YwkQG5mki via @aclu
— Miranda Yaver (@mirandayaver) March 8, 2019
TWO JUSTICE SYSTEMS IN AMERICA:
Black men go to prison for 20 years for marijuana.
Manafort, convicted of 8 felonies, stole MILLIONS from America and only gets 47 months in prison.
— Red™️ (@Redpainter1) March 8, 2019
So a woman who mistakenly voted when she shouldn’t have will do more time than Paul Manafort. And there are people doing much more time for being in possession of drugs. Have a blessed night.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 8, 2019
— Tim Hitt (@lavitaminguy) March 8, 2019
Weed smokers are doing longer time than Manafort, for crimes directly against the very democracy of the United States.
— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) March 8, 2019
I got grounded for 47 months for talking-back to my mom once. + I got a chancla thrown at me, which I dodged, so it grazed my ear. My mom’s tougher than that lame Judge Ellis.
Man, if Manafort was black or brown and was caught selling an ounce of pot, he’d be in jail for life.🤷🏻♀️
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) March 8, 2019
Paul Manafort is a traitor who went on a white-collar crime spree but only got 47 months prison time in a country that hands out life sentences to people for a few dime bags of weed.
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) March 8, 2019
Manafort committed fraud and got 47 months.
In 2015, The Daily Beast highlighted a man named Fate Vincent Winslow sold $20 of weed to a stranger and got life. https://t.co/Wu70gUHOHk
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 8, 2019
You probably get the idea by now, but you can sift through dozens more here.
Photo courtesy of Disney.
Marijuana Activists Protest John Boehner’s SXSW Speech
Advocates for social equity in the increasingly legal marijuana economy are protesting keynote speeches by former Republican House Speaker John Boehner and MedMen CEO Adam Bierman at South by Southwest (SXSW).
The Equity First Alliance, a group that promotes racial and social justice in the cannabis industry, said that Boehner and Bierman’s scheduled Friday appearances at the festival are a reflection of an ongoing trend where mostly white men are profiting off a market while people of color continue to disproportionately face criminalization for marijuana offenses.
Boehner has been the subject of ongoing criticism from marijuana advocates, who point out that he failed to act on cannabis reform, and opposed certain criminal justice reform legislation, during his 24 years in Congress. While he never introduced, cosponsored or voted in favor of marijuana bills in that time, he joined one of the largest cannabis firms, Acreage Holdings, as a board member last year.
Bierman has been accused in a lawsuit filed by a former employee of making racist and homophobic remarks. His company, which was valued at $1.6 billion last year, was also a member of a New York-based medical marijuana industry association that advocated against allowing home cultivation in a memo submitted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (The company told Marijuana Moment that it supports the right to home cultivation, but did not answer questions about its involvement in drafting the document. It was later asked to leave the group over Bierman’s alleged remarks.) Acreage remains a member of the same association.
“Our protest at SXSW sends a bold message in support of cannabis equity, justice, and repair,” the Equity First Alliance’s Felicia Carbajal said in a press release. “We stand together, recognizing that by defending the most marginalized among us, we defend all of us. We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities, and we call on all defenders of human rights to join us.”
Activists held protest signs over a nearby highway and at a hotel where Boehner’s speech—which covers “the likely paths to national legalization and the challenges and opportunities America’s fastest growing industry face today”—will take place on Friday. The signs condemn “big marijuana” and call for social equity policies such as community reinvestment.
— Ministry of Hemp (@MinistryofHemp) March 15, 2019
“It’s clear this market is going to expand,” Boehner told CNBC in an interview ahead of the event. “And as it does, lawmakers in Washington have to look up and realize that the federal government is way out of step. It’s time for the federal government to get out of the way.”
In the press release, Equity First Alliance listed additional reasons they’re protesting as well as policies they support.
“In protest of:
—Those profiting off of cannabis without an intentional plan to repair and make whole individuals, families, and communities that have been devastated by the War on Drugs;
—Those profiting off of cannabis who once participated in prohibition;
—And those who would profit before freeing all cannabis prisoners and vacating all cannabis convictions
And calling for:
—10% of companies’ annual revenue to be reinvested in communities disproportionately harmed by the
War on Drugs;
—A new paradigm of social responsibility in the cannabis industry;
—And public policies that create an equitable, just, and reparative industry.”
“It’s hypocritical for an Austin based company like SXSW, a company imbedded in a city that preaches diversity and inclusion, to neglect the work of committing to create an inclusive space, and instead give a keynote platform to John Boehner,” Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said. “This is disgusting.”
— AcreageHoldings (@AcreageCannabis) March 15, 2019
Marijuana Moment reached out to Acreage for comment, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
Marijuana Tourism From China To Amsterdam: Study Sheds Light On Motivations
Marijuana use in China is strictly forbidden. In fact, when Canada legalized cannabis last year, the Chinese government sternly reminded its citizens living in or visiting the country to “please avoid contact or using marijuana.”
Yet, despite their nation’s strict views on marijuana, research shows that significant numbers of Chinese tourists are heading to Amsterdam to take part in its prolific cannabis culture. A new study published in the journal Current Issues in Tourism sheds light on some of the motivations for the cross-continental cannatourism.
The punishment for drug use of any kind in China, including marijuana, is up to 15 days in detention and mandatory rehabilitation, the study’s authors write. But the Chinese government has been known to enforce harsher sentences for other cannabis-related charges. For example, Jaycee Chan, the son of actor Jackie Chan, spent six months in a Beijing jail after police discovered more than 100 grams in his apartment.
Because Chinese citizens are “widely educated to stay away from any kind of drugs,” the study states, researchers were curious to know more about who these tourists heading to the Netherlands for cannabis really were. Between February 2014 and October 2016, they randomly approached Chinese tourists in or exiting Amsterdam coffee shops where marijuana is sold over the counter and invited them to complete a confidential questionnaire. A total of 654 surveys were collected and analyzed.
About 80 percent of respondents said they’d never tried marijuana prior to their trip to Amsterdam.
Participants were divided into three segments based on their responses: cannabis enthusiasts, diversionists/recreationists (people who were seeking pleasure or a diversion from their daily lives) and people who were simply curious about cannabis culture.
Survey responses from the first and third groups “demonstrate that Chinese drug tourists desire to ‘experience all’ and seek authenticity out of their normal daily life and society during the overseas travel,” the study authors wrote.
The largest number of tourists surveyed (almost 44 percent) fell into the category of diversionist/recreationist. In other words, they used cannabis as a way to enjoy their vacation—not unlike tourists from other countries.
“They travelled and consumed cannabis mostly for the sake of experiencing/experimenting with the local cannabis culture in Amsterdam as well as relaxation, pleasure, and to escape from stressful social environments,” the authors write.
Cannabis enthusiasts were the smallest segment of the sample. In terms of demographics, almost half of the survey respondents were women. Overall, a majority of participants reported being college-educated, under 35 years old and not married.
In a recent interview, lead study author Jun Wen discussed why Chinese tourists are especially attracted to the Netherlands.
“You can do a lot of things there that are illegal in China – gambling, paying for sexual services, and buying cannabis for recreational use,” he said. “So Chinese tourists want to go there to find a different way to relax that’s not traditional.”
Congressman Talks Cannabis With ‘Captain America’
Actor Chis Evans of “Captain America” fame met with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Friday, and the two discussed marijuana reform, among other issues.
The congressman, who is a long-standing champion of loosening federal cannabis laws and outlined a blueprint to federal legalization last year, said he enjoyed the conversation and that he could “do this all day” in a tweet.
Enjoyed speaking with Captain America, @ChrisEvans, about marijuana reform, voting rights, and bipartisanship in times of division in the nation's capital.
I can do this all day! pic.twitter.com/eNy03QUvSB
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) March 8, 2019
The chat was “part of a project Chris is working on with several members of Congress,” a spokesperson for Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment in an email. “Earl spoke about issues that he cares about, and marijuana reform was one of them.”
“Chris asked for the basics on why it’s important, explaining the reasoning behind scheduling and what pros and cons of legalization were,” he said.
The details of Evans’s “project” are unclear. He’s met with several members of Congress in recent weeks, according to a number of tweets, but he’s declined to get into specifics when pressed. There’s speculation that he’s launching a political media organization, however.
— Zach C. Cohen (@Zachary_Cohen) February 5, 2019
— Rachel S. Cohen (@rachelkaras) February 6, 2019
In response to Blumenauer’s tweet, NORML asked: “How disappointed was the Captain to be unfrozen in modern times and see we are still locking up over 600,000 Americans for marijuana?”
How disappointed was the Captain to be unfrozen in modern times and see we are still locking up over 600,000 Americans for marijuana? #NotMyFuture
— NORML (@NORML) March 8, 2019
Evans is the nephew of former Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA), who lost his bid for re-election in last year’s midterm election.
Blumenauer filed a bill in January, appropriately numbered H.R. 420, which would regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Photo courtesy of Twitter/Rep. Early Blumenauer.