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.
Top NFL Owner And Player Expect Marijuana Policy Change Following MLB Action
A top National Football League (NFL) team owner and a star player said this week that they’re expecting changes to the league’s marijuana policy after the MLB announced it is removing cannabis from the banned substances list for baseball players.
Both Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady touched on the possibility of the NFL’s marijuana rules being revisited.
Jones: "We always need to be careful when looking at our behavior," on marijuana and how MLB is dropping it from tested drugs. “I think that you should expect and will expect an adjustment" @1053thefan
— 105.3 The FAN (@1053thefan) December 13, 2019
“I think the world is sensitive to the issue regarding marijuana, and it’s also an issue contemporarily that we are excited about being in-step with the social and legal scene as it goes forward,” Jones said in an on-air interview with Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan on Friday.
“I think you should expect and will expect an adjustment of the contemporary way or the present way that marijuana is being thought about.”
“We not only have the interest of competitiveness in mind when it comes to any type of substance,” he said, “but we have the issue of the law, and we have the issue of the society focus on it. All of that calls and does receive attention when you’re discussing this with players.”
Listen to Jones’s marijuana comments, about 8:45 into the audio below:
Brady made similar points when asked about MLB’s move in an on-air interview with Westwood One Sports on Thursday.
“These are the signs of the times,” he said. “The times are changing and progress is good.”
“I know there’s been talks about that in the NFL as well, and I think the stigma is being removed. And hopefully they’re doing a lot of research into whatever benefits there may come from it,” Brady said.
Negotiations are currently taking place in a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL teams and the players’ association, which is the only time the owners could change their rules on drug testing and punishment.
“I don’t know enough about it, I am sure there are a lot experts out there that could weigh in,” he said.
Listen to Brady’s cannabis comments, around 5:45 into the audio below:
Jones has historically argued against the NFL’s harsh stance on marijuana. As popular opinion has evolved, with 67 percent of Americans now in support of cannabis legalization, there are concerns that punishing players for using the plant may do more harm to the NFL’s public perception than good.
“The issue is, we have such visibility. We ask for it. When people turn away, we say ‘wait a minute, turn back around, look at us.’ We ask for visibility,” Jones said. “When we turn it this way, someone can have a hiccup and someone can have an issue and it becomes highly visible, whereas it might not be in the normal workplace.”
If an NFL player tests positive for marijuana in an annual drug test, it results in various fines, suspension and rehabilitation. A contracted player can be tested with as little as three hours notice. In 2018, the NFL collectively charged its players $4,000,000 in fines related to substance abuse alone.
Players are thought to side-step the process, passing the annual test and smoking cannabis for the rest of the year. “Everyone knows this game is brutal,” former Chargers offensive linebacker Kyle Turley told the Los Angeles Times. “Cannabis saved my life, period, and it could help a lot of other players.”
Owners are willing to make the league’s marijuana policy less punitive, sources close to owners told The Washington Post in October, which would limit NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary power when it comes to cannabis. The league and union are already studying the use of marijuana for pain management.
“I want us to always be careful as we are looking at our behavior,” Jones continued, “to not make it look like, as NFL players, that you’re inordinately bad actors. And so I want us to always keep that in mind when we’re implementing what our rules are as it pertains to any type of behavior.”
“Certainly, it’s gotta be legal. Behavior can’t be tolerated is not legal,” he said. “But if it’s legal, how we handle that, and how we test that, and what happens when a player doesn’t get to play because he’s been suspended, and the light it casts on everybody, is of interest to me.”
NFL team owners and NFL players’ union are currently in collective bargaining negotiations, a subject on which neither party can comment. In the past, the bargaining agreements have lasted as long as 57 days.
Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.
MLB Officially Removes Marijuana From Banned Substances List For Baseball Players
Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB players union announced on Thursday that they have reached an agreement to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances and will begin to treat its consumption by players in the same way that alcohol use is handled.
The agreement is the product of negotiations on the league’s drug policy, with both parties agreeing that steps must be taken to handle drug misuse through a treatment-focused model, rather than by simply imposing penalties.
With that, MLB will also start to test for opioids and cocaine, and players who test positive will be referred to treatment. Only those who refuse the treatment program will be penalized.
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) December 12, 2019
The cannabis change reflects an attempt to modernize the league’s drug policy as more states move to enact legalization.
“Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” MLB said in a press release.
In other words, players will only face discipline for violations related to unsanctioned conduct while under the influence, rather than simply for testing positive for THC. Previously, a positive test resulted in mandatory treatment, and failure to comply was punishable by a fine of up to $35,000.
At the same time, MLB is adding several substances to its list of drugs that will be tested: synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine and opioids including fentanyl.
Additionally, players will be required to participate in educational programs on “the dangers of opioid pain medications and practical approaches to marijuana.” The programs will focus on “evidence-based and health-first approaches based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.”
The changes will take effect beginning with 2020 Spring Training.
“In agreeing to these modifications to the Program, MLB and the MLBPA continue to favor a treatment-based approach to Drugs of Abuse, with a particular emphasis on protecting Players from lethal and addictive substances, and providing effective and confidential care and support to Players who need it,” MLB said.
The drug policy shift comes after 27-year-old Anaheim Angels player Tyler Skaggs died of an opioid overdose, prompting a reevaluation of how the league can respond to the opioid crisis.
“The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem said. “It is our hope that this agreement—which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education—will help protect the health and safety of our Players.”
“It is our collective hope that this agreement will help raise public awareness on the risks and dangers of opioid medications and contribute positively to a national conversation about this important topic,” he said.
White House Drug Czar Jim Carroll said “[w]e applaud the efforts of both Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to prioritize treatment over punishment” and that this “historic agreement is an example of how we can all work toward a common goal and save more of our friends, family members, and neighbors from dying of a drug overdose.”
“By coming together, the parties are implementing positive change that has the potential to save lives,” he said.
While MLB has developed a reputation as being progressive in its drug policy decisions, other sports leagues have declined to take responsive action.
Earlier this year, the PGA announced that its golfers cannot use CBD, regardless of the federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives under the 2018 Farm Bill. The NFL reduced its marijuana penalty in 2014, but has made no changes to its cannabis policy since.
The World Anti Doping Agency, on the other hand, said in 2017 that athletes can use CBD.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
MLB Plans To Remove Marijuana From Banned Substances List For Minor Leaguers
Major League Baseball (MLB) is making a bold move to address opioids and remove marijuana from its banned substances list for minor league players.
MLB and the MLB players’ union are negotiating the new drug agreement, which has not yet been finalized.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first tweeted the news.
As part of a new agreement on opioids being negotiated between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, MLB will remove marijuana from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers, sources tell The Athletic. Major leaguers have not been subject to testing for marijuana.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2019
This new agreement would be for minor leaguers who aren’t on the 40-man roster of players who are eligible to be added to the active roster.
So far in 2019, there have been 13 players suspended for “drugs of abuse,” a blanket term that includes marijuana. The current penalties for a positive test are strict. Players are suspended 25 games for their first positive drug test, 50 games for a second, 100 games for a third and are banned for life for a fourth.
Players on the Major League 40-man roster have not been regularly tested for cannabis since 2002, when the league’s focus shifted to performance-enhancing drugs. Major leaguers are only tested if there is “probable cause.” A positive THC test is 50 nanograms of THC per milliliter of urine, and it results in a $35,000 fine and a treatment plan—but no suspension.
Drugs of abuse on the current banned substances list include natural cannabinoids, THC, synthetic THC and cannabimimetics (e.g., K2 and Spice), cocaine, LSD, opiates (e.g., oxycodone, heroin, codeine, and morphine), MDMA, GHB and PCP.
This is the full list of “drugs of abuse” previously banned under the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program: pic.twitter.com/z34q60wUGg
— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) December 10, 2019
Tony Clark, MLB players’ union chief, is optimistic an agreement could be reached before the year’s end. The deal also includes opioid testing and a recovery plan. Minor league players who test positive for opioids would be “put into a treatment program rather than suspended,” CBS Sports reported.
The Los Angeles Times first reported in October that changes may be coming to MLB at the behest of the players’ union. Testing for opioids and easing marijuana penalties is one way the league is responding to its opioid crisis following the overdose death of 27-year-old Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs earlier this year. Oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol were found in Skaggs’ system at the time of his death.
While MLB is known for being progressive when it comes to cannabis use, many other major league sports in the U.S. have been slow to reform their stances on marijuana and CBD.
Just this year, the PGA stated that its golfers cannot use CBD, despite the federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives under the 2018 Farm Bill. The NFL reduced its marijuana penalty in 2014, but has made no changes to its cannabis policy since.
Meanwhile, the World Anti Doping Agency cleared CBD use by athletes’ use in 2017.
Photo by Lindsey Bartlett.