Prohibition is not over! It may seem so for those states that have legalized cannabis for recreation and medical use. Yet even in Washington and Colorado, people are still going to jail despite state laws. People are celebrating and at the same time, people in other states are fighting to stay out of prison. Hey, how about the federal government, and how it arrests those citizens who are following state law?
The differences between state and federal laws are bewildering. State laws can give a false sense of security, since the federal government continues to raid medical cannabis dispensaries and the homes of patients who are following state law. When defendants dare to take their case to trial, the federal government throws out our state laws and all other defenses that would tell the jury that they are following state law. They can’t refer to a medical defense at all.
Federal law still says marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, like heroin. We know of at least 50 prisoners who are serving de facto life sentences—life sentences without the possibility of parole. We also know that 3.6 million people are daily marijuana users in the United States, and 750,000 of them are being arrested every year.
Trials—Many of our plant prisoners have fought for their freedom in trial. Taking their case to trial means they did not “snitch” —that is, give the government information about someone else in order to stay out of jail on someone, or take the deals the government has offered. They truly believe they are not-guilty and want their chance to fight for their rights. Despite a defendant’s rights, the jury usually only hears the government’s side of the story—all the jury gets to hear is evidence that the defendant broke federal law. When the jury hears the defendants’ side of the story, its members don’t get to know that they followed state law. Since the Federal Government does not recognize medical cannabis it is not allowed to be brought up as a defense. The fact that the defendant was following state medical cannabis laws is completely ignored. This vicious cycle causes unfair and lengthy sentences for our caregivers and patients.
When our prisoners and defendants go to trial and lose, the judge is forced to give them to mandatory minimum sentences. This means they will receive a very long sentence. It almost seems like a punishment for not pleading guilty. In the past, courtrooms have been empty, giving jurors a chance to follow what the government tells them. The Human Solution, a nonprofit support group that helps nonviolent cannabis defendants and POWs and provides community education about cannabis and hemp, believes in court support. If we could fill courtrooms across the country, that would give the jury the sense that something is not right.
Jury Nullification—Jury nullification occurs when a jury refuses to convict a defendant who has technically broken the law. When jurors believe the law is unjust or unjustly applied, they can conscientiously acquit simply by voting Not Guilty. It is a right all jurors have, but one that judges and prosecutors do not want them to know about. Courts have held that not only are judges not responsible for informing jurors of this right, but they may misinform them outright by telling them they “must” convict if they believe the law has been broken.
We must educate jurors before they get into the courtroom, and remind them that they are not required to leave their conscience at the door. Sometimes it is the last hope for our plant prisoners. Our job as jurors is not only to judge whether the law has been broken, but to judge the fairness of the law itself and its application in a particular case. Alcohol prohibition in the 1930s lasted only 13 years because jurors refused to convict their neighbors for victimless offenses. Courts were overloaded, and juries refused to convict in as many as 60 percent of these cases. It became futile and embarrassing for prosecutors to pursue these cases. Likewise, marijuana prohibition will be over when the government can’t rely on juries to keep delivering convictions. If we educate others about jury nullification rights so everyone knows, prohibition could end immediately.
Prison—Right now, The Human Solution knows of about 150 people serving long sentences for cannabis. Our prisons are not equipped to take care of our sick and elderly (R.I.P. Richard Flor). We have many prisoners suffering right now, like Jerry Duval (who is very sick and followed the laws in Michigan). The guards put our non-violent plant prisoners in shackles and handcuff them on a regular basis with murderers and thieves. They live in tiny cells, and if they get put on lock-down (like Luke Scarmazzo, a caregiver serving 22 years), they take their phone privileges, visiting, email, and force them to live in the “hole” alone for a few months. Once they reach prison, their rights are completely gone, they cannot fight for the degrading and unfair conditions in which they are forced to live, or they risk solitary confinement. They are treated as slaves and forced to work for under 25 cents per hour. Many of our plant prisoners are living in dangerous prisons with murderers and forced to defend their lives at all times. Most of our prisoners have been forgotten.
Life in prison—In 1970, the government passed the Controlled Substances Act, identifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug (like heroin), causing people who possess, sell, or cultivate marijuana to have to serve life sentences in prison. At least 50 of our plant prisoners (possibly more) are spending the rest of their lives in prison, due to mandatory minimum laws. Most of them took their case to trial and lost. If you do not make a deal with the government, and you go to trial to fight for your rights, and you lose, then the judge is forced to sentence you to the mandatory minimum. This means some people are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole and de facto sentences, meaning their sentence is longer than their lifespan. Some of our plant prisoners have been there since the ‘70s, and will never get out to visit their families, or will never know what freedom feels like again. If prohibition does not end, they will suffer a lonely, probably painful death in prison.
What can you do? – Join the Seattle Hempfest Human Solution Chapter. We’ve adopted two men doing Life Without Parole for cannabis. Help us lead information campaigns about them and others doing time for cannabis. You can read about the two men we’ve adopted below. You can also learn about some of the casualties of the war on cannabis user. Email us at [email protected] if you are interested in joining our team and helping those doing Life for cannabis.
Find out if someone is incarcerated: http://www.courtsystem.org/
James Romans: Father, Brother, Husband, Friend –
I love it when the phone rings and it’s Jimmy Romans on the other end. He called us to thank us for the Winterfest Member’s raffle donation of $300. He also let us know he has a new attorney who is willing to work pro bono on a new appeal targeted on things his original attorney should have done but did not. It’s crazy to understand that you can be two weeks away from completing a state sentence of 15 months and have it turned into life in Federal Prison! Think about that. That’s our tax dollars at works folks!
UPDATE: Supreme Court denied hearing his case
On September 26, 2016 the US Supreme Court will review Jimmy’s case during something called Conferencing. This “conferencing” will determine if they move forward to fully review his case. RIGHT NOW IS CRITICAL! Please contact the US Supreme Court and let them know you support a review of Jimmy’s case! His family has written a letter, the text is below. Please copy and paste it – or use your own words, just be polite, – and mail it as soon as possible to –
US Supreme Court
Office of the Clerk – Scott Harris
One First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20543
Supreme Court of the United States
Office of the Clerk – Scott Harris
1 First St, NE
Washington, DC 20543-0001
Re: James R. Romans v. United States No. 16-5184
To the Presiding Judges:
I thank you in advance for taking the time to review this communication.
I am writing in regards to James Romans, inmate # 10195028. We are requesting that on September 26, 2016 when Mr. Romans case is reviewed during conferencing, that you please consider moving his case forward.
Mr. Romans is a non violent, father of 3 beautiful children, brother, son and ideal inmate. Mr. Romans was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and since he did not accept any plea bargains prior to trial he was sentenced to LIFE in prison.
While being in prison at Terre Haute Federal Prison Mr. Romans has become a suicide advocate and has completed many courses. Overall, he is the best type of inmate you would ever like to have, a model one. Mr. Romans has already missed out on his oldest daughter’s high school graduation, his first grandchild being born, and is missing his two youngest children growing up. This unjust sentencing has had a lifelong impact on the health of his parents.
Mr. Romans has already served five years in prison, we are requesting that you review this case and provide his early release or demand a resentencing. LIFE in prison is not an appropriate sentence for a non violent charge, such as Marijuana.
We thank you in advance for your time, and pray for the best outcome on September 16, 2016.
Jimmy, his family, & Seattle Hempfest thanks you for helping!! We are making a difference! Having George speak at Hempfest was amazing! Let’s have Jimmy & George in 2017!!
Seattle Hempfest has also adopted James Romans, a man serving life in prison. Jimmy had an appeal on October 5, 2015. We are still awaiting results and will keep you posted!
This is what his sister, Elizabeth Bishop, writes about him:
JAMES R ROMANS Register Number: 10195-028
In February of 2013 my brother was sentenced to LIFE for conspiracy to distribute Marijuana. The case # is CAUSE NO. 4:11-CR-127.6. Prior to this conviction, my brother has never had any violent cases. He had been raised, and was currently living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Approximately 1.5 years prior to his sentencing he was on a work release program getting his life on track, he had 2 weeks remaining of his program before he would successfully complete it, along with holding down a job.
It was then that the Federal Drug Taskforce came to his home, took him from his home and transported him down to Dallas Texas, where he has never lived. They also transported approx. 15 other gentlemen from the State of Indiana down to Texas. My brother was taken away from all his friends, and all of his family. He did not understand what was going on, only to find out the Federal Government had taken his state case, and turned it into a Federal Case, the State case which he was almost finished serving. The Federal Government did not catch my brother with any marijuana on him, nor did they see him conduct any transactions.
The entire case is based upon hearsay from other individuals. My brother has never been a snitch, so for this case, he would not speak, or make up stories regarding other people. Once the case was heard, my brother was sentenced to LIFE in prison. While the individuals that were “supposedly” higher in this case, were only presented with 12 years. This is completely wrong, and unjust. My brother’s case is currently in the 5th district court of appeals in Louisiana, waiting to be heard. He has a court appointed lawyer whom we have not had much cooperation with. We are asking for all the help that we can get.
My brother has 3 amazing children who he LOVES and adored and spent the majority of his time with prior to this case. He has NEVER been a violent person, does not have ANY convictions for being a violent person, he has NEVER lived in the state of Texas, nor “conducted transactions” (As the case states) in the State of Texas. Although, I am not saying that a charge of conspiracy to distribute does not warrant some type of jail time, I do not believe that it warrants a LIFE in prison sentence. My brother was given longer sentences than MURDERS and CHILD PREDATORS!
This type of sentencing MUST STOP in our courts today! Please sign my petition asking the 5th district court of appeals to hear my brother’s case and provide a clemency, or shorter sentence. Please feel free to review my brother’s case as well to understand the details. I thank you very much for taking the time to read this.
I was fortunate enough to meet Elizabeth, Jimmy’s sister on my recent trip to California.
You can write Jimmy here –
James Romans 10195028
FCI TERRE HAUTE
P.O. BOX 33
TERRE HAUTE, IN 47808
What you can do: Sample letter:
What follows is a sample letter you can use to write to federal and state representatives:
Honorable Carl E Stewart, Chief Judge 5th Circuit of Appeals
The President of the United States
The U.S. Senate
The U.S. House of Representatives
The Governor of LA
The LA State Senate
The LA State House
REVERSE Life Sentence for my brother!
In February of 2013 my brother was sentenced to LIFE for conspiracy to distribute Marijuana. The case # is CAUSE NO. 4:11-CR-127.6. Prior to this conviction, my brother has never had any violent cases. He had been raised, and was currently living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Approximately 1.5 years prior to his sentencing he was on a work release program getting his life on track, he had 2 weeks remaining of his program before he would successfully complete it, along with holding down a job. It was then that the Federal Drug Taskforce came to his home, took him from his home and transported him down to Dallas Texas, where he has never lived. They also transported approx. 15 other gentlemen from the State of Indiana down to Texas. My brother was taken away from all his friends, and all of his family. He did not understand what was going on, only to find out the Federal Government had taken his state case, and turned it into a Federal Case, the State case which he was almost finished serving. The Federal Government did not catch my brother with any marijuana on him, nor did they see him conduct any transactions. The entire case is based upon hearsay from other individuals. My brother has never been a snitch, so for this case, he would not speak, or make up stories regarding other people. Once the case was heard, my brother was sentenced to LIFE in prison. While the individuals that were “supposedly” higher in this case, were only presented with 12 years. This is completely wrong, and unjust. My brother’s case is currently in the 5th district court of appeals in Louisiana, waiting to be heard. He has a court appointed lawyer whom we have not had much cooperation with. We are asking for all the help that we can get. My brother has 3 amazing children who he LOVES and adored and spent the majority of his time with prior to this case. He has NEVER been a violent person, does not have ANY convictions for being a violent person, he has NEVER lived in the state of Texas, nor “conducted transactions” (As the case states) in the State of Texas. Although, I am not saying that a charge of conspiracy to distribute does not warrant some type of jail time, I do not believe that it warrants a LIFE in prison sentence. My brother was given longer sentences than MURDERS and CHILD PREDATORS! This type of sentencing MUST STOP in our courts today! Please sign my petition asking the 5th district court of appeals to hear my brother’s case and provide a clemency, or shorter sentence. Please feel free to review my brother’s case as well to understand the details. I thank you very much for taking the time to read this.
George Martorano: Writer, poet, prisoner in the “Fourth World”
George Martorano has been released! He was finally set free on October 5, 2015. Having him at Hempfest 2016 was a absolute honor! George spoke on multiple stages and volunteered helping hang our Jimmy Roman’s & other prisoners signs!
He had been in prison for 32 years, and has written over 30 books. His is one of the longest serving, non violent offender in the history of the Federal prison system. He is a writer and a poet. He has appealed his case 35 times and has had no luck getting released. He published a “Self Help Booklet,” which has been approved by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) and is used for reentry programs.
He has created a writing course called “The Write to Life” that has helped dozens of inmates earn GEDs and develop creative writing skills. He is also a certified suicide watch counselor and uses himself as an example, saying, “If I have hope facing what I am facing every day, so can you.” He is also one of the first if not the first federal inmate to exercise his First Amendment Rights by publishing his work on his blog and his website (www.webelievegroup.com). He also has another website, www.childrenontheoutsidewithparentsontheinside.com, which helps children cope with their parents’ incarceration.
Seattle Hempfest recently “adopted” George, raising money to help George with his commissary money in prison. We hold raffles for George & Jimmy at our Membership events.
George Martorano is serving life in prison for our plant. This is what he writes about solitary confinement:
Today, I write this as I have so many times over the prison years…..under a lock-down. Lock-down is when the entire prison is secure. Where all prisoners are quickly herded into your cell, any cell in fact. One has to hope he is near his…..Once you are in a cell. The steel door is locked fast and that is it until the dangers are over. That could take two days to six months. It is according to how much blood was spilled…..Of my prison years, the only life as I know it. I truly have lost count of how many lock-downs I have been subject to. I can say I am a pro at it. For I know no matter how tranquil the prison day is. A day of me teaching, mentoring, a lock-down will come sooner or later.
So, I know to keep certain items stored in my cell books, radio batteries, sustainable food items, etc…..Yet, being prepared does not matter if you do not have the right mental attitude….. Attitude….. What do I mean? Well, even if a man is in prison. When he gets sealed in his cell, his own mind can come heavily down upon him. He totally believes the very, all, is lost. He curls up on his bunk for days on end. He totally believes, he totally feels the very meaning of lost…..What to do? What to do?
- Eat less of what’s in the paper bags you get three times a day. Lots of water is best.
- Take your narrow mattress and make a chair out of it. Fold it, tie it off with a long torn piece of sheet. For to lie on the bunk for hours and days is like a mist of cancer upon you. No, best to use the makeshift chair for at least 8 hours. Then, back onto the steel slab, and later sleep.
- When under a lockdown. You should work-out even more. Three times a day. Early morning yoga, afternoon upper body, then early evening jogging in place or step-ups upon the cell’s trash can.
- Wash. First. Make a screen of a sheet or blanket. Then you get naked and soap up then soak down. I use a lot of shampoo upon my head and use the suds downward…..Last shave, shave every day in fact. Do not worry about the cell’s floor. You get that water up later by rag or sponge.
- Of course read and write. When using the radio get the news, it at least makes you feel you are still a part of what’s going on in the world. For some, their minds shut off all more under a lock-down and they just, vegetate.
- If you are alone in the cell. One should sing to himself; a lifting for one’s spirit; even dance. No good being silent for long periods of time. If not alone, talk to your cellie in positive ways, no hateful language. Especially, if he is younger, inexperienced within the fourth world, prison. For he can become dark in his mental state; learning to be mean.
- When relieving one self, again you set up a screen of some sort. Best to run the sink’s faucet to create a sound over. Flush repeatedly…..For now within a lock-down you must stay pleasant in human form; more of a gentlemen as never before; even if you are by yourself. The very foremost of one’s self character.
Yes, I have lived, been existing through countless lock-downs. Did some of my best writing when the steel doors have forsaken me. And when that steel door finally forgives, opens. I always pride myself by trying to look the freshest, the strongest, always delivering a huge smile. I stand there arms raised…..’ Everybody all right?!…. Though I am smiling, my heart gets saddened.
For I see those that the lock-down has become as though a bad date. The old prisoners look older, their skin yellower, bodies more bent. The young are sour faced, unclean and starry eyed with confusion so laced with hate. All I can do is roam around the cell block looking to stop those readying to argue or worse. Ease them, make them laugh, for laughter is the greatest healer after released from the long bite of the four walls…..I have even lived through back to back lock-downs. You get out. They battle. Sealed in again…… Only longer…..
Federal prison in America, 2014.
You can write George here
GEORGE MARTORANO #12973-004
FCI COLEMAN MEDIUM
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
P.O. BOX 1027
COLEMAN, FL 33521
Death in prison: The case of Richard Flor
All of our plant prisoners, especially our life prisoners risk death behind bars. For Richard Flor, death in federal custody was unimaginable. The first registered caregiver in Montana, Richard co-owned five dispensaries, and because of federal laws, he fought for his life and our rights every day in prison. He was a Vietnam veteran and a co-owner of Montana Cannabis, one of the state’s largest medical marijuana providers until it was raided by the DEA March 2011.
On April 19, 2012, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell sentenced Richard Flor, age 68, to five years in prison, and his wife Sherry to two years in prison. Richard Flor tried to take his case to trial, but he was very sick, and 87-year old-Judge Charles Lovell would not let him take his case to trial because the federal systems doctors said he had dementia, and forced him to take a plea.
Flor was so sick with many illnesses that at the time of sentencing he couldn’t physically walk. The judge sentenced him to a medical facility, but he never made it, they kept him in general population in a private prison, he suffered eight broken bones, and was living with miserable and unbearable pain all over his body.
Regardless of his constant cries for help, the nurses accused Flor of faking it. As diabetes and all his other medical problems rapidly spiraled out of control, they refused to take him to a real hospital for help and was denied most of his medications. They never gave him a wheel chair and sometimes took his walker from him. After four months of neglect and mental abuse, he suffered two major heart attacks during transport. His daughter Kristen had to fly to Las Vegas to remove his fragile body from the life support.
Richard died in federal custody in a private prison facility in Vegas on August 30th, 2012. He was still cuffed to the hospital bed when he left this earth with only his daughter by his side. The autopsy declared that his cause of his death was un-diagnosed colon cancer and organ failure. And, after 37 years of marriage, his wife Sherry was not released from prison to grieve over his death. They forced her to spend her full sentence in prison. To this day, his family has not had a funeral and will wait until all pot prisoners are released to have a funeral to celebrate his life.
All of our prisoners risk a nasty death like this in prison, especially our sick and our lifers. While we celebrate what may seem like the end of prohibition, these people continue to suffer. We cannot let this suffering go on.