North Carolina Task Force For Racial Equity In Criminal Justice Makes Marijuana Recommendations

NORTH CAROLINA:  Attorney General Josh Stein announced that the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, convened by Gov. Roy Cooper and co-chaired by Justice Anita Earls and the attorney general, adopted recommendations related to marijuana today. Those include a recommendation to decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts and to further study potential legalization of marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale.

“You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “White and Black North Carolinians use marijuana at similar rates, yet Black people are disproportionately arrested and sentenced. Additionally, it is time for North Carolina to start having real conversations about a safe, measured, public health approach to potentially legalizing marijuana.”

“Data made available to the Task Force shows that 63 percent of the more than 10,000 convictions for simple possession of marijuana last year in North Carolina are people of color even though they are only 30 percent of the population and research documents that marijuana use is at roughly equal percentages among Black and white populations,” said Justice Anita Earls. “This recommendation is intended to help alleviate racial disparities in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.”

Marijuana In NC Today

Right now, possession of up to ½ ounce of marijuana is a class 3 misdemeanor, not subject to imprisonment but subject to a fine up to $200. In 2019, there were 31,287 charges and 8,520 convictions for this offense; 61 percent of those convicted were nonwhite.

Possession of more than ½ ounce up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana is a class 1 misdemeanor, subject to up to 45 days imprisonment and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 charges and 1,909 convictions for this offense; 70 percent of those convicted were nonwhite.

Today’s recommendations:

  • The Task Force recommends legislation to decriminalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by making such possession a civil offense and expunge past convictions through an automatic process.
  • The Task Force further recommends that North Carolina convene a Task Force of stakeholders, free from conflict of interest, to study the pros and cons and options for legalization of possession, cultivation and/or sale, including government or not for profit monopoly options. The study should be guided by a public safety, public health, and racial equity framework.
  • Improve drug enforcement data collection and reporting by:
    • Requiring every law enforcement agency to participate fully in the NIBRS system
    • Requiring every law enforcement agency to publish drug enforcement data on its department website in easy searchable fashion, including number of arrests and citations by drug, quantity, race, gender, and reason for search. This may necessitate providing additional resources to law enforcement agencies, especially smaller agencies.
  • Deemphasize (or make the lowest drug law enforcement priority) felony drug possession arrests for trace quantities under .25 grams in non-ABC permitted locations.
  • Deemphasize (or make the lowest drug law enforcement priority) marijuana possession arrests in non-ABC permitted locations.
  • Prosecutors should immediately deprioritize marijuana-related prosecution in non-ABC permitted locations.

Task Force Next Steps

The Task Force will release its full recommendations in a report to Gov. Roy Cooper on Dec. 15, 2020. That date has been extended from Dec. 1 due to difficulty holding meetings and conducting work as a result of the pandemic. To view today’s public meeting, please visit the North Carolina Department of Justice’s YouTube channel. Information on previous recommendations and other Task Force action is available at https://ncdoj.gov/trec/.

Justice Department Announces Global Resolution of Criminal and Civil Investigations with Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma and Civil Settlement with Members of the Sackler Family

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Today (10/21/2020), the Department of Justice announced a global resolution of its criminal and civil investigations into the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP (Purdue), and a civil resolution of its civil investigation into individual shareholders from the Sackler family.  The resolutions with Purdue are subject to the approval of the bankruptcy court.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

“Today’s resolution is the result of years of hard work by the FBI and its partners to combat the opioid crisis in the U.S.,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office.  “Purdue, through greed and violation of the law, prioritized money over the health and well-being of patients.  The FBI remains committed to holding companies accountable for their illegal and inexcusable activity and to seeking justice, on behalf of the victims, for those who contributed to the opioid crisis.”

“The opioid epidemic remains a significant public health challenge that impacts the lives of men and women across the country,” said Gary L. Cantrell Deputy Inspector General for Investigations at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.  “Unfortunately, Purdue’s reckless actions and violation of the law senselessly risked patients’ health and well-being.  With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to combat the opioid crisis, including holding the pharmaceutical industry and its executives accountable.”

“This resolution closes a particularly sad chapter in the ongoing battle against opioid addiction,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott.  “Purdue Pharma actively thwarted the United States’ efforts to ensure compliance and prevent diversion.  The devastating ripple effect of Purdue’s actions left lives lost and others addicted.  DEA will continue to work tirelessly with our partners and the pharmaceutical industry to address the damage that has been done, and bring an end to this epidemic that has gripped the nation for far too long.”

Purdue Pharma has agreed to plead guilty in federal court in New Jersey to a three-count felony information charging it with one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.  The criminal resolution includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture.  For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million on the effective date of the bankruptcy, and, as further explained below, the department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to State and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy.  Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement in the amount of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.  Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The resolutions do not include the criminal release of any individuals, including members of the Sackler family, nor are any of the company’s executives or employees receiving civil releases.

While the global resolution with the company is subject to approval by the bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York, one important condition in the resolution is that the company would cease to operate in its current form and would instead emerge from bankruptcy as a public benefit company (PBC) owned by a trust or similar entity designed for the benefit of the American public, to function entirely in the public interest.  Indeed, not only will the PBC endeavor to deliver legitimate prescription drugs in a manner as safe as possible, but it will aim to donate, or provide steep discounts for, life-saving overdose rescue drugs and medically assisted treatment medications to communities, and the proceeds of the trust will be directed toward State and local opioid abatement programs.  Based on the value that would be conferred to State and local governments through the PBC, the department is willing to credit up to $1.775 billion against the agreed $2 billion forfeiture amount.  The department looks forward to working with the creditor groups in the bankruptcy in charting the path forward for this PBC so that its public health goals can be best accomplished.

The Criminal Pleas

As part of the plea, Purdue will admit that from May 2007 through at least March 2017, Purdue conspired to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful function of the DEA by representing to the DEA that Purdue maintained an effective anti-diversion program when, in fact, Purdue continued to market its opioid products to more than 100 health care providers whom the company had good reason to believe were diverting opioids and by reporting misleading information to the DEA to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quotas.  The misleading information comprised prescription data that included prescriptions written by doctors that Purdue had good reason to believe were engaged in diversion.  The conspiracy also involved aiding and abetting violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by facilitating the dispensing of its opioid products, including OxyContin, without a legitimate medical purpose, and thus without lawful prescriptions.

In addition, Purdue will admit to conspiring to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.  Between June 2009 and March 2017, Purdue made payments to two doctors through Purdue’s doctor speaker program to induce those doctors to write more prescriptions of Purdue’s opioid products.  Similarly, from approximately April 2016 through December 2016, Purdue made payments to Practice Fusion Inc., an electronic health records company, in exchange for referring, recommending, and arranging for the ordering of Purdue’s extended release opioid products – OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla.

The Civil Settlements

The department’s civil settlements resolve the United States’ claims as to both Purdue and its individual shareholders, members of the Sackler family.

The civil settlement with Purdue provides the United States with an allowed, unsubordinated, general unsecured bankruptcy claim for recovery of $2.8 billion.   This settlement resolves allegations that from 2010 to 2018, Purdue caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs, specifically Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and the Indian Health Service.  The government alleged that Purdue promoted its opioid drugs to health care providers it knew were prescribing opioids for uses that were unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary, and that often led to abuse and diversion.  For example, Purdue learned that one doctor was known by patients as “the Candyman” and was prescribing “crazy dosing of OxyContin,” yet Purdue had sales representatives meet with the doctor more than 300 times.  It also resolves the government’s allegations that Purdue engaged in three different kickback schemes to induce prescriptions of its opioids.  First, Purdue paid certain doctors ostensibly to provide educational talks to other health care professionals and serve as consultants, but in reality to induce them to prescribe more OxyContin.  Second, Purdue paid kickbacks to Practice Fusion, as described above.  Third, Purdue entered into contracts with certain specialty pharmacies to fill prescriptions for Purdue’s opioid drugs that other pharmacies had rejected as potentially lacking medical necessity.

Under a separate civil settlement, individual members of the Sackler family will pay the United States $225 million arising from the alleged conduct of Dr. Richard Sackler, David Sackler, Mortimer D.A. Sackler, Dr. Kathe Sackler, and Jonathan Sackler (the Named Sacklers).  This settlement resolves allegations that, in 2012, the Named Sacklers knew that the legitimate market for Purdue’s opioids had contracted.  Nevertheless, they requested that Purdue executives recapture lost sales and increase Purdue’s share of the opioid market.  The Named Sacklers then approved a new marketing program beginning in 2013 called “Evolve to Excellence,” through which Purdue sales representatives intensified their marketing of OxyContin to extreme, high-volume prescribers who were already writing “25 times as many OxyContin scripts” as their peers, causing health care providers to prescribe opioids for uses that were unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary, and that often led to abuse and diversion.

The civil settlement also resolves the government’s allegations that from approximately 2008 to 2018, at the Named Sacklers’ request, Purdue transferred assets into Sackler family holding companies and trusts that were made to hinder future creditors, and/or were otherwise voidable as fraudulent transfers.

Today’s resolution does not resolve claims that states may have against Purdue or members of the Sackler family, nor does it impede the debtors’ ability to recover any fraudulent transfers.

Today’s announcement was made by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen; Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Clark; U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont Christina Nolan; and First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael Honig.  The criminal investigation was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Districts of New Jersey and Vermont, the Consumer Protection Branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, and the FBI’s Washington, D.C. and Newark Field Offices, with assistance by DEA.  The civil settlements were handled by the Fraud Section of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Districts of New Jersey and Vermont, with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of General Counsel and Office of Counsel to the Inspector General; the Defense Health Agency; and the Office of Personnel Management.  The Purdue bankruptcy matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Corporate/Finance Section.

Except to the extent of Purdue’s admissions as part of its criminal resolution, the claims resolved by the civil settlements are allegations only.  There has been no determination of liability in the civil matters.

This Pack Of Weed Will Register You To Vote!

Introducing the Higher Ground Ballot Box

To celebrate National Voter Registration Week (Sept. 22nd – 28th), Higher Ground and Saints Joints has created The Ballot Box. The elegant voter pack contains a QR code that immediately registers voters, a mini version of the Bill of Rights, non-partisan information about voting and elections. It also includes five premium cannabis joints to help fire up voter activity in the democratic process.

“The Ballot Box is a new platform to spark engagement, and register new voters,” notes Higher Ground Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Stusser. “In addition to helping get out the vote in 2020, it will also put folks in a damn good mood till Election Day.”

Higher Ground TV has been using humorous viral videos and parodies to elevate the dialogue on cannabis culture, including Comedians in Cars Smoking Cannabis, and Profiles in Legal Cannabis. Their latest project is a joint effort with Saints Joints, an innovative marijuana company based in Seattle.

Saints Joints is one of the most successful cannabis brands in the country, collaborating with a variety of artists and musicians. Their hard-cased luxury boxes have highlighted artists such as the Bay Area’s Jeremy Fish in their Artist’s Series packs, a Tattoo Art Series featuring Jimbo Phillips , and a Limited Edition Pride Pack with proceeds benefiting Equal Rights organizations. Each specialty box is a limited edition similar to album covers, and creating a rock n’roll collect-‘em-all incentive.

“We see ourselves as leaders not only in the arena of legal cannabis, but as members of the mainstream community,” said Lawrence Perrigo, founder of Saints. “The collaboration with Higher Ground is our latest joint effort to raise awareness, and show how cannabis brands – and consumers – are doing more than getting high. We’re also highly engaged in the democratic process.”

Racial disparities in cannabis are also reflected in the current Black Lives Matter movement. “When we dreamed up this project, we never envisioned the incredible Black Lives Matter movement we are seeing,” notes Perrigo. “But as with so many issues, people of color are more negatively effected by the War on Drugs. Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for possession – even though whites and blacks use cannabis at the similar rates. People voting to make policy change in these areas is more important that ever.”

National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our democracy. First observed in 2012, it has quickly gained momentum ever since. Nearly 3 million voters have registered to vote on the holiday to date. The holiday has been endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the National Association of Election Officials (The Election Center).

“We thought it was important to include the Bill of Rights in our Ballot Box,” said Stusser, “because these individual rights weren’t originally included in the Constitution. Like the legalization of marijuana, the people had to push the government to allow it.” The Bill of Rights, of course, includes the first 10 amendments in the Constitution, including freedom of speech, religion and the press, the right to assemble, States rights, and due process.

Thirty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and another eleven, plus the District of Columbia, have authorized recreational sales and consumption for adults. Thomas Jefferson argued in 1787 for the right to be free from warrantless search and seizures: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.” While the Father of the Declaration wasn’t speaking of cannabis legalization at the time, his words ring true for activists supporting the movement.

The Ballot Box includes a special QR code that directs to the Cannabis Voter Project – and immediately registers individuals to vote. Established in 2018 as an initiative from HeadCount, the nonprofit and non-partisan Cannabis Voter Project is focused on educating, registering and turning out voters. HeadCount has registered half a million voters since 2004 at concerts and events. The Ballot Box link includes an easy-to-use online registration page and news to keep voters informed on election deadlines and voting locations.

Higher Ground explores and celebrates the elevated aspects of getting high. Founded during a revolutionary time of economic and spiritual transformation in the legalization movement, the brand documents and chronicles this incredible era in our history, and advocates for the legalization of cannabis (along with civil rights, gay rights, and human rights), and embraces the end of – yet another – prohibition.

Members of the abolitionist press, Higher Ground combines advocacy journalism with a sense of humor to bring the cannabis culture to the masses.


For more information, contact michael@michaelstusser.com

Open Letter To Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Editorial by David Rheins, Founder/Executive Director of the Marijuana Business Association (MJBA) and publisher of the MJ News Network.

 

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

Speaking on behalf of the tens of thousands of legal cannabis businesses, and the more than 150,000 workers employed in the legal cannabis industry, we ask you to rethink your decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum.  Cannabis Prohibition has been a costly-disaster — for the country at large, and to millions of Americans who have been arrested, imprisoned, lost jobs and scholarships, all for the use or possession of small amounts of a plant.  We ask that you end this failed policy, and join the majority of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum who recognize is time to move beyond the failed policies of America’s War on Drugs.

In the five years since the voters of Colorado and Washington voted in adult-use cannabis, we have witnessed the birth of a responsible, professional industry that serves millions of adult customers in a safe and compliant manner.  Working effectively with state regulators, the legal cannabis industry is growing responsibly, and building the foundations of a scaleable, profitable industry — one that is already generating hundreds of millions in new state tax revenues, creating jobs and economic vitality in once-depressed communities.

The legal cannabis industry is led by socially-responsible business leaders who share your concern about the opioid crisis.  Under legalization, cannabis products are carefully inspected, tested, packaged and sold under strict State supervision.   Licensed retail establishments are required to maintain rigorous security and compliance technology, and customers are carded, oftentimes twice, to ensure no illegal sales to minors happens.

Our legal industry — which represents the fastest growing segment of our economy — operates at a severe disadvantages.  As a result of being considered a Schedule 1 drug, legal state businesses are unable to secure loans or commercial credit, are banned from working with many banks, and pay penalizing fees, surcharges and taxes.

In the past five years, the legal cannabis industry has been encouraged by the support of enlightened politicians from both parties who seek to move beyond prohibition. We thank folks like Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, along with Senator Cory Booker, Senator Rand Paul and backers of the CARERS Act for their fine work.  It is a start, but there is much work to be done to unravel the hairball of failed policy that 80 years of prohibition has woven.  

Attorney General Sessions, please rethink your decision and join us — we seek a partner in the Federal Government, not an adversary — as together we work to redefine a post-prohibition America.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

David Rheins

 

Marijuana Arrest Data Absent From Latest FBI Uniform Crime Report

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Tabulations calculating the percentage of annual marijuana arrests nationwide are absent from the 2017 edition of the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which the agency released on Monday.

The table, ‘Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations: Percent Distribution by Region,’ had for decades appeared in the section of the FBI report entitled ‘Persons Arrested.’ It was one of over 50 tables eliminated from this year’s edition of the Crime Report. NORML had relied on the table in order to extrapolate and publicize annual marijuana arrest data, which it has tracked since 1965.

According to the latest FBI report, police made 1,572,579 arrests for illicit drug offenses in 2016. This total represents nearly a six percent increase in arrests since 2015.

Although data with regard to what percentage of these drug arrests were marijuana-related was absent from this year’s report, the FBI did provide percentages by request to Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell, who summarized the data in a column for Forbes.com.

The unpublished data estimates that police made 653,249 arrests for cannabis-related violations in 2016. Of these, 587,516 arrests (90 percent of all marijuana arrests) were for possession-related offenses.

The arrest total is an increase from 2015 figures and marks the first year-to-year uptick in nationwide marijuana arrests in nearly a decade. The uptick comes at a time when eight states have enacted laws to regulate the adult use of cannabis and when public support for legalizing the plant is at a record high.

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Washington AG Ferguson Statement On Sessions Letter

WASHINGTON:  In response to a letter from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding Washington’s marijuana regulations, Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered the following statement:

“I was disappointed by Attorney General Sessions’ letter, which relies on incomplete, inaccurate and out-of-date information on the status of Washington’s marijuana regulations. I’m also disappointed that he has yet to accept my repeated invitations to meet in person to discuss this critical issue face to face. If he does accept, I look forward to providing him with a more complete picture of the robust regulatory program that exists in our state.

“Any action from the Department of Justice short of allowing our well-regulated, voter-approved system to continue is unacceptable. I will continue to defend the will of Washington voters.”

NORML: Medical Marijuana Must Be Part Of Solution To Opioid Crisis

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: NORML ( National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) released the following statement regarding the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis first meeting this on June 16.

Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director said: “Tens of thousands of lives have been adversely impacted by the nation’s opioid epidemic. We must use every tool at our disposal to fight this crisis. Marijuana provides a safe and effective alternative for many of these patients and it is vital that the Committee does not ignore this important evidence in its discussions.”

“Given the make-up of the commission – which includes a number of longtime drug warriors such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and former Office of National Drug Policy Control staffer Bertha Madras, it is crucial that citizens, advocates, doctors, and researchers alike elevate the science and data which shows marijuana is an effective tool in combating the opioid crisis, not the rhetoric of the failed War on Drugs.”

“Permitting marijuana sales to be regulated by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than the black market run by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other illicit drugs including opioids would likely result in fewer, not more, Americans abusing other illicit substances.”

Armentano’s latest op-ed is “Can marijuana help mitigate America’s opioid crisis?” published today in The Hill.

 

Colombia To Legalize Commercial Sale Of Medical Marijuana

COLOMBIA: Colombia’s government plans to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes, officials said Thursday in a surprise shift by the longtime U.S. ally in the war on drugs.

The change is coming in an executive decree that President Juan Manuel Santos will soon sign into law. It will regulate regulating everything from licensing for growers to the eventual export of products made from marijuana, Justice Minister Yesid Reyes said.

With the new policy, Colombia joins countries from Mexico to Chile that have experimented with legalization or decriminalization as part of a wave of changing attitudes toward drug use and policies to combat it in Latin America. But unlike many of its neighbors, Colombia has long been identified with U.S.-backed policies to eradicate drug production and a sharp decline in levels of violence over the past 15 years is largely attributed to the no-tolerance policing.

Bernie Sanders Announces Bill To Abolish Private Prisons, Hints At Marijuana Policy Platform

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Bernie Sanders isn’t done talking about criminal justice reform — in fact, he’s merely getting started. The presidential contender continues to rise in the polls and sensible Drug War reforms will only increase his standing with the Democratic base.

Appearing at a campaign rally in Nevada on Tuesday, the Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate talked at length about the unfairly punitive policies that plague the American justice system and disproportionately affect people of color in the United States. Speaking to the crowd of 4,500 supporters gathered outside the University of Nevada, Sen. Sanders went beyond his previous speeches on the issue, announcing that, come September, he will be introducing federal legislation which would abolish for-profit private prisons.

“When Congress reconvenes in September,” Sanders said, “I will be introducing legislation, which takes corporations out of profiteering from running jails.”

Tackling the problem of for-profit prisons is a bold move for a federal legislator, as the prison industry is a hugely profitable part of the U.S. economy. The top two private prison companies in the country, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, have a combined annual revenue of over $3 billion, much of which is spent lobbying elected officials to protect their bottom line. While some states, such as New York and Illinois, have enacted laws to ban the privatization of prisons, for-profit prisons have tragically remained a staple of the American criminal justice system, in large part due to the country’s skyrocketing incarceration rates made possible by the War on Drugs.

 

Seattle’s Hempfest Takes On New Feel After Legalization Of Marijuana

WASHINGTON:  This weekend, more than 100,000 people are expected to flock to Myrtle Edwards Park to partake in one of Seattle’s most unique and aromatic festivals: Hempfest.

The festival started almost 25 years ago as a movement to legalize recreational marijuana in Washington state, but now the focus has shifted to a loftier goal of promoting legalization nationwide.

“We’ve adopted two people that are doing life without parole for cannabis: Jimmy Romans and George Martorano,” said Hempfest General Manager Sharon Whitson. “Jimmy was sentenced in 2013 to life without parole for marijuana distribution and George Martorano is the longest-serving, first-time, non-violent offender in the history of the United States of America. He’s been in prison for 34 years for marijuana distribution in Florida.”

At Hempfest, you’ll see Romans’ and Martorano’s faces plastered all over posters and hand-outs about the War on Drugs.