When it comes to cannabis, many who oppose criminal justice reforms fail to see how much damage the sentences for this healing herb really cause. Cannabis is a plant of peace, we are the ones who brought the war. At some point in any war, the severity of casualties has to be weighed against the benefit of continued aggression. If you have felt yourself wavering in your activism, here are some jolting truths to galvanize your fighting spirit.
Weldon Angelos – 55 years and a day
Despite having no prior convictions, Weldon was slapped with a sentence of 55 years and a day for selling small amounts of marijuana on 3 occasions. At just 23 years old, he was a young father of 3, a growing music producer and artist. Now he will be 78 years old before he is eligible for parole.
It turns out a childhood friend had fallen into trouble with the DEA, and turned into an informant to avoid jail time. That “friend” bought 8 ounces of weed from Angelos on 3 occasions. The DEA then arrested Angelos and counted each sale as a separate offense, and because Angelos was a lawful gun owner, his sentence was enhanced merely for owning a gun. Even the judge who sentenced him grimaced at what mandatory sentencing laws were forcing him to do. Judge Paul Cassell beseeched the President and Congress to overturn the sentence, which he called “cruel, unusual, and irrational.”
James Tranmer – 35 years
A priest, yes a priest, is serving de-facto life for not just his admitted financial backing of his son’s marijuana smuggling venture, but for his outspoken support of the plant. James is a priest in the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a sect of Rastafarianism, and considers cannabis a sacrament.
“I am an unrepentant ganja man. I refuse to accept any criminality regarding marijuana.”
His unashamed and outspoken love of the herb may have even factored into his outrageously long sentence! His son, the one who actually had the smuggling business, served 13 years, some of which were with his father.
“I’m an herb man, I’ve always been an herb man for more than 30 years,” Tranmer told the judge at sentencing. “The herb is a sacrament. Ganja is my sacrament. America is a sick nation spiritually … you cannot win this fight against marijuana. If you fight against the herb, you fight against creation. I will take anything you give me for ganja. You can’t take ganja away from the people. Ganja is what is given by God for the people and you can’t take that away from them.”
He continues, “I’ve grown it, packaged it, transported it, imported it, distributed it, sold it, given it away, and done with all the things which society has found objectionable, and I have never felt as though I had in any way transgressed the divine moral laws that govern mankind…and womankind. I’ve done many things I have later regretted and considered shameful, but none of these acts included my activities with the precious weed. I have always and probably will always as long as I still breathe, champion the unfathomable and countless properties of this fine, misunderstood herb.”
James will be over 80 years old before his scheduled release.
Craig Cesal – Life without parole
Craig never touched marijuana, he never conspired to sell or transport it. He co-owned a towing and repair company for abandoned and damaged trucks. The only thing he did was pick up an empty truck. Little did he know the truck had been full of marijuana that had been seized at the border of New Mexico while he sat at home in Chicago. Held without access to a phone, mail, or a lawyer, once he went to trial, he fought the charges, knowing he had done nothing wrong.
It turns out the person who gave him directions to the truck was actually a DEA agent, who tried to convince him to join the company who owned the truck. He said no, he did not trust that company, and he was only interested in servicing trucks. Because of that conversation, he was charged with knowledge of the conspiracy.
He was represented by lawyers who were paid off by the company who owned the truck to prevent him from incriminating them. Recordings that showed his refusal to be part of the enterprise were deleted. His assets were sold, and they tried to say he was mentally incompetent. His accountant/investigator was given his company and other assets in return for not undermining the government’s case.
A case heavily influenced by attorneys who could steal his assets if he were convicted, the true tale of Craig Cesal is a glaring example of why the government loves the current laws of drug cases. He has exhausted all appeals and habeas petitions, leaving his only chance of freedom with Presidential Clemency. The government never even alleged he had anything to do with marijuana, but they threw him in prison for the rest of his life anyway.
Do you know anyone who’s lives have been ruined by the war on drugs? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments section below.