Open Letter to President Biden – Craig Cesal

Joseph Biden-President of the United States of America 

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, DC 20500

Craig Cesal

Second Chance Foundation 630/432-0958

RE: Executive Order Granting Pardons for those convicted of simple possession of marijuana.

Dear President Biden,

I identify as a marijuana prisoner, and I speak on behalf of the over 250 federal marijuana prisoners that have engaged us to fight for clemency or other relief for them. I was sentenced to serve life in prison for marijuana in 2002, but last year, my sentence was commuted to time served. Attorney Huma Rashid and others convinced the President to grant clemency to me, and we now work together to seek the release of all non-violent federal marijuana prisoners.

Since my release, I have continued to correspond with over 250 federal marijuana-only prisoners, too many of those also serving life for marijuana sentences. Juan Cisneros has been serving a life sentence for marijuana for over 27 years; he was 26 years old when first imprisoned. We are preparing clemency petitions based upon your presentation during your campaign, and recently, that you will release non-violent federal marijuana prisoners.

We all thank you for your executive order last week which serves to grant pardons to those with simple possession convictions, but unfortunately, none of those convicts are in federal prison. We chose to believe, and hope that this is just a first step in you making good on your promise to grant relief to us. We at the Second Chance Foundation have the prisoner legal files assembled, and are ready to file marijuana prisoner clemency petitions as soon as the initiative is defined by you.

Please try to imagine how it feels to sit in prison, for many, many years, while watching coverage on the news regarding the burgeoning cannabis industry we actually helped to create. There are thousands of people making much more money than us, and working with much more marijuana than us, all while the IRS has special tax provisions for them. Also in the news, we are happy you are fighting for Brittney Griner, whose nine year sentence for marijuana is unreasonable, but please understand that Sam Hansen is serving sixteen years in the federal prison at Yazoo, Mississippi, for making the type of THC cartridges she was caught with. Sam’s family would like to discus his imprisonment with you as you did with Brittany’s family.

Since your executive order was announced last week, I have received emails from over 140 federal marijuana prisoners, and innumerable calls, texts, and emails from the prisoner’s families and even their lawyers. They either tell me to reach out to you on our behalf, or to ask, “what about me still in prison for marijuana?” It’s bad enough to look out the prison windows at billboards for local marijuana dispensaries, but to have the news saying that you granted clemency to marijuana offenders, but that we have to stay in prison is heartbreaking.

Certainly planning and rules are necessary for any marijuana prisoner clemency initiative, but all we ask is that not only will you actually do this, but that you provide a seat at the table for us marijuana prisoners to have a voice in the discussions. The crack cocaine prisoners were promised relief under the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, but since prisoners had no say in the writing of the law, it did not provide relief to prisoners. We want relief for all non-violent federal marijuana prisoners, and we want to help define what that means.

I received relief in the clemency lottery because I had collected the right connections, and got the right assistance. I was no more deserving of clemency than even my cellmate, Joel, who is serving a fresh 18 year sentence for marijuana. I am still talking with prisoners every day, and I will fight for those who didn’t have my resources. Please address us directly and let us be part of the discussion about granting clemency to marijuana offenders.


Craig Cesal

Marijuana prisoner

Second Chance Foundation

To read more on President Biden and his flip flopping on cannabis, see below.

Biden Can Issue Mass Clemency for Marijuana Cases – So Why Hasn’t He?

Biden Provides More Lip Service When Asked About Freeing Cannabis Prisoners

One Response

  1. First of all, thank you for helping give a voice to the marijuana prisoners currently watching the cannabis industry they created, and that led to their imprisonment, completely pass them by. As of today, I represent 266 federal marijuana prisoners, and something actually surprised me after being a prisoner for over 20 years. EVERY SINGLE FEDERAL MARIJUANA prisoner signed on to this letter!!! . Only a prisoner would know how it feels to watch 60 MINUTES run a special about marijuana grow operations, while sitting on a 22 inch wide prison bunk. Or how it feels that the burgeoning industry does not even acknowledge their contributions, but rather works to have their neighborhood dealers prosecuted because they are competing with local dispensaries. In this age where everything seems to be “unprecedented,” this phenomenon is as well. . I ask that the industry not financially support a spin group they created to make the appearance of the industry providing social equity to the black market people who risked everything, including their savings and freedom, to create the marijuana market. Also, for those in impoverished, often inner-city areas who are also left behind by the people making the big money. Its time for the industry to actually support the activists who are actually supporting the prisoners, and especially those, such in my group at the Second Chance Foundation, who are actually representing the prisoners and gaining the release of many. . I implore the industry that I and others helped to create (I was held responsible for bringing 39 semi-truck loads of marijuana to the Chicago area) to actually support the prisoners, not spin artists that try to create a façade of the industry doing so. Craig Cesal 630/432-0958

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