Craig Cesal was a cannabis prisoner whom we (Jeff in particular) have followed and supported through his journey to freedom, from as far back as 2014, when Jeff met and corresponded with Craig through the Corrlinks system. On the newly-filed Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), Craig points out that, “although it is marketed as providing relief to those federally imprisoned for marijuana, its provisions will only provide relief to a select few.”
Cannabis Administration And Opportunity Act (CAOA)
Here is a brief explainer: The CAOA Bill attempts to bridge the gap between the outdated attitude towards marijuana use as reflected in federal law, and the current, progressive movement towards the use of marijuana products for a multitude of health benefits. It formalizes the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances list, and opens the way for States to introduce their own legislation.
Double Standards For Cannabis Prisoners
Since the introduction of the Bill, one criticism has emerged quite clearly, above any others, and that is the potential for double standards in treatment of cannabis prisoners. While the Bill allows relief for those who have been incarcerated for crimes relating to marijuana use and possession, this relief does not extend to those with other charges attached to their convictions.
To illustrate, let’s look at Craig’s story. Craig was imprisoned for conspiring to distribute marijuana, and so, under the new law, he would automatically be released. However, his cellmate, who was serving a shorter sentence for having a firearm in his possession while also possessing marijuana, will not go free. Bear in mind that it is not necessarily a criminal offense to possess a firearm until you also have weed on you. Then it is a criminal offense.
Some might say there is a flaw in this logic.
As Craig explains in his post, the group which will be most affected by the double standards inherent in the CAOA Bill is Black marijuana prisoners, who were caught with guns in their possession as well as weed. Although CAOA ensures that possession of both weed and firearms is legal, these guys will not receive their freedom.
The legal consequences of this Bill, if it is passed without any changes, could be challenged in the higher courts. There are a number of arguments that could be made to convince a judge to free a cannabis prisoner who is being unfairly detained. This precedent can then be used to free similarly-convicted prisoners. But it is a long, expensive, and time-consuming process, with no guarantee of success, and that is for those few who can afford it.
Send It Back
The CAOA Bill is one step towards a more enlightened federal system. It also offers one way to rekindle a stagnating American economy, which is undoubtedly its primary function. This barely-tapped industry offers a new stream of federal tax income, as well as an opportunity for massive growth in the job market, which can offset the rising unemployment rate, so it represents a positive move for the nation. But even on the back of those benefits, it cannot be allowed to pass in its current form.
It’s fairly safe to say that this Bill requires some further input and should be reworked in such a way that it takes into account the circumstances and input of those marijuana prisoners who are directly affected. Laws should be enacted to protect the rights and equality of every person, not to enable some to grow richer, whilst further impeding the lives and futures of other, already disadvantaged groups.
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