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Trump Pledges To Free Silk Road Drug Market Operator Russ Ulbricht, Despite Calling For Execution Of Drug Sellers



Former President Donald Trump says he’ll commute the sentence of a person convicted of running a dark web illicit drug market “on day one” of his presidency if elected this November—a promise of clemency that seems to conflict with his position that people who sell drugs should face the death penalty.

During a speech before the Libertarian National Convention on Saturday, Trump said “if you vote for me, on day one I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht to a sentence of time served,” earning boisterous applause at an event that also saw the former president booed at various intervals.

Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life in prison for operating the dark web market known as the Silk Road from 2011 to 2013, thanked Trump for the commitment in a post on X.

“After 11 years in prison, it is hard to express how I feel at this moment,” he wrote. “It is thanks to your undying support that I may get a second chance.”

But Trump’s promise appears to contradict the extreme drug policy platform he’s promoted at earlier stages of his campaign, which may have to do with the libertarian audience he was attempting to woo this weekend.

Dozens of attendees raised “Free Ross” signs when he made the remarks.

Last June, the former president defended his position that people who sell illicit drugs should be quickly convicted and executed, touting countries like China and Singapore for enforcing the lethal penalty against drug offenders. Trump said that capital punishment “is the only way you’re going to stop” addiction.

In that interview, however, he seemed confused when he was confronted with the fact that his proposed execution plan for drug traffickers would have condemned a woman he pardoned and promoted as an example of a key criminal justice reform achievement during his administration.

The exchange served as another example of the enigmatic drug policy worldview of the former president, who at one point more than 30 years ago said that the country needs to “legalize drugs” to win the war on drugs but is now campaigning on an aggressive drug warrior platform.

Trump has previously seemed to bask in the headlines about his criminal justice reform actions—namely clemency he granted to people during his time in the White House—but at the same time seeks to appeal to voters as a tough-on-crime candidate.

And while he’s voiced support for medical cannabis and the right of states to set their own marijuana policies, he’s also attempted to link mass shootings to “genetically modified” marijuana.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign has twice attempted to draw a contrast with Trump on cannabis policy. Specifically, it has promoted the president’s marijuana pardons and move to reschedule cannabis, comparing it to the withdrawal of federal marijuana enforcement guidance under the Trump administration.

A GOP senator said last week that Biden’s strategy to win reelection this November is “to get more people to smoke marijuana,” criticizing the rescheduling push.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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