blog topics i write prison insight is based on the most frequently asked questions we get about prisons and the criminal justice system. Today’s topic has been on my list for a while, but I’ve been avoiding it because it’s so relevant. And, to be honest, it made me emotional.
In 2013, I received my first 15-year sentence (actually two 15-year sentences, served concurrently) for a non-violent crime of possession and cultivation of marijuana.
I could write a whole book about my case, but the bottom line is that I got arrested when I found 12 marijuana plants in my roommate’s closet. Since my name is on the lease, I am in charge of the practice. Because there was more than an ounce of marijuana in the house, I was automatically charged with possession with intent to distribute.
The charge has nothing to do with my attempt to sell marijuana. Instead, the law in my state states that possession of any amount over an ounce automatically creates an intent to dispense fee.
It seemed to me that the facts about my case were irrelevant to the prosecutors, who immediately focused on my case because it was an election year. He told local media that I was a big drug dealer who got knocked out. He pushed for the maximum sentence on every charge he could, and refused to consider anything other than the narrative he created.
After fighting this guy for two years, he broke me down. Prosecutors arrested me on bad check charges in order to revoke my bail for a marijuana case and put me in jail without bail in order to force a guilty plea. It was a mess and I ended up pleading guilty just to get out of jail and get probation in my case. I just want it to end.
Instead of getting probation (which every other first-time non-violent drug offender gets in my state), the prosecutor in my case asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence on both counts. And, that’s exactly what happened. Later we found that the judge and the prosecutor colluded, and the judge always accepted the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation without any doubt.
I was sentenced to 15 years in prison and was released on parole after serving 4 years. Then the State Supreme Court threw out my case for massive bad behavior by the attorneys (both prosecution and defense).
So I gave you all my backstory to explain that today’s blog question is one I know all too well: Can you get a life sentence for drug use?
In this blog post, I’ll cover the following topics:
- Federal drug case could carry life sentence
- Craig Cesar’s Story
- Laws vary from state to state, but life in prison for drug use is possible in most states
- god bless jeff mizanski
Federal drug case could carry life sentence
At the federal level, you can be sentenced to life in prison for drug trafficking, even if you are a first-time offender.
First Offense (Drug Trafficking): Sentencing Guidelines < 10 years. Not more than life. Not less than 20 years in case of death or serious bodily injury. or more than life. In the case of an individual, the fine does not exceed $10 million.
Second offense: not less than 20 years and not more than life. In case of death or serious bodily injury, life imprisonment. A fine not to exceed $20 million if an individual, or $75 million if not an individual.
2 or more previous convictions: Life imprisonment. A fine not to exceed $20 million if an individual, or $75 million if not an individual.
Craig Cesar’s Story
Craig Cesal is serving a life sentence for his first drug use in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Craig was arrested shortly after September 11, 2001, on possible terrorism-related charges.
Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s story in his own words:
“I have never been charged with buying, selling or even using marijuana,” Craig wrote“Instead, my company repaired semi trucks for a company that sold marijuana. I don’t think I did anything wrong because I didn’t do anything with marijuana.” According to a federal court in Gainesville, Georgia , I was wrong. My business, located near Chicago, was auctioned off by Georgia attorneys to pay for their services securing a life sentence after spending my house and savings.
The sentencing judge found me a marijuana delinquent. Therefore, I am hopeless and unworthy of anything but receiving the final curse in prison. Murderers take an average of 13.4 years to be released, and terrorists take 17 years to return home, according to the Department of Justice. But I am a prisoner of the war on drugs. Under current federal law, I have no hope. “
Laws vary from state to state, but life in prison for drug use is possible in most states
Drug laws vary widely across the 50 states. However, life sentences for first-time drug offenses are unlikely, no matter which state you live in. Yes, you can get a life sentence for drug use, but that’s usually only for repeat offenders. Also, it’s getting rarer and rarer.
In 2019, Nearly 70 people jailed In the United States and serving a life sentence on marijuana charges. Some were pardoned before President Donald Trump left office. However, there are still people living in prison for drug use.
god bless jeff mizanski
A year before my release, Jeff Mizanski was released from a Missouri prison with the help of then-Governor Jay Nixon. After serving 21 years, he commuted Jeff’s sentence for marijuana use.
After Missouri legalized medical marijuana, Jeff became the first person in Pettis County to legally purchase marijuana.
“It’s weird — I mean, after almost 23 years in prison for marijuana, now suddenly I can just walk in here?” Jeff said. “It’s less than a mile from where I was originally arrested in 1993. I’m almost afraid to go to the pharmacy, you know, because of everything in the back of my head, when you walk into a place like that, that feeling Emerging. I was thinking, “My God, what am I doing here? should i be here
Writing this post reminds me that I need to give Jeff a call and see how he is doing. Before his release, he was serving the state’s longest marijuana sentence. I was serving the longest sentence for a woman in the state before my case was overturned. God bless Jeff Mizanski. I’m so glad he came out.
Is it time to end the war on drugs? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: I Was Sentenced to Life Without Parole for a Non-Violent First Drug Offense Summary of Federal and State Drug Laws Jeff Mizanskey to be freed Tuesday after 21 years on pot charges Jeff Mizanskey on Life After a Life Sentence for Marijuana Top Ten Non-Violent Marijuana Life Sentence Cases