Protesters rally in Washington for those pardoned by Biden


Earlier this month, Edwin Rubis heard President Biden announced a pardon for mass marijuana and realized he would be left out.

Rubis — who has spent more than two decades in federal prison for his involvement in a marijuana distribution conspiracy — and others jailed for marijuana-related convictions will not be covered by the pardon. In fact, no one will be released as a result of the announcement, as White House officials say no one is currently being held in federal prisons solely for possession of marijuana.

The expected release date for Rubis is no more than a decade away: August 6, 2032.

“I don’t belong in prison anymore,” Rubis, 54, said in a telephone interview from a medium-security federal prison in Talladega, Alabama. “When I first came in, I probably Already on my own, the first two, 3, 4 years, but I did a lot of what the system asked me to do. I believe I really recovered.”

Protesters are expected to gather outside the White House on Monday to speak out for people like Rubis, who have been jailed for what they believe to be nonviolent crimes involving marijuana, Especially as public perception of the substance has been transferred. Marijuana is now legal for adult recreational use in Washington, D.C., two territories, and 19 states. Voting will be held in five more states next month.

For those who want to see marijuana law and policy reform unravel the legacy of the country’s war on drugs, Biden’s announcement this month that he will pardon people convicted of simple federal possession doesn’t go far enough. Meaningful post-conviction reform remains largely elusive in the United States, which has pledged to review criminal justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit dedicated to marijuana criminal justice reform that lobbied the White House on the issue, estimates that about 2,800 people are being held in federal prison for marijuana-related convictions, the group said. Data from a 2021 report from Recidiviz, a nonprofit that uses technology and data to build tools for criminal justice reform

As a young man, Rubis was not distressed by the lengthy sentence of 40 years, but full of hope, dedicated to educating and helping his fellow incarcerated. He earned three degrees, including a master’s degree in Christian counseling, is working toward a doctorate, mentors other incarcerated people, works as a law librarian and dental assistant, and leads Christian Bible studies.

He was supported by prison staff, including a unit manager, a staff chaplain and a library director, who wrote a letter in a court motion seeking a commutation of Rubis’ sentence, describing Rubis as a How kind and patient, with a positive attitude, is committed to improving their own and the lives of others.

“It almost feels like a test to see if the cannabis community is naive or stupid enough to mistake announcements like this for what we promised,” said Steve DeAngelo, founder of the Last Prisoner Project. “It’s more of a selfish political fig leaf than any real action for change.”

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The White House estimates that Biden’s pardon will apply to about 6,500 people across the country who have been convicted federally since 1992 for simple marijuana possession. The bulletin also applies to people convicted before 1992, but the government has no data prior to that. Biden is urging governors to issue the same pardons as his, as most marijuana convictions have historically been at the state level.

“Criminal records of marijuana possession create unnecessary barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities,” Biden said earlier this month when announcing the pardon. “That’s before you address racial disparities in who suffers the consequences.”

Protest organizers pointed to what they saw as a gap between Biden’s promises and recent statements, noting Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pressured Biden in a segment of the debate to legalize marijuana. Stance: “I think we should legalize marijuana, period,” Biden said on stage. “And I think everyone, anyone with records should be released from prison, their records deleted, and completely zeroed out. …Everyone out, records deleted.

The White House insists the pardon is a fulfillment of a 2020 campaign promise. In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson pointed to Biden’s previous commitments, including on his 2020 website, which included Biden’s belief that “no one should be charged for the mere use of illegal drugs”. imprisonment”.

Organizers of Monday’s protests, including DC Marijuana Justice, which is working to legalize marijuana in the city, sent a letter to the president asking him to use his executive authority to release at least 100 people incarcerated on federal marijuana charges. They argue that there are thousands of people serving long sentences for activities involving large amounts of marijuana, “far less than what dispensaries routinely handle,” the letter reads.

It’s only been a decade since Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use. As of February 3, 37 states, three territories and the Territory allow the use of marijuana for medical use. Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota will soon decide whether recreational marijuana can be legalized in their states.

Still, according to an ACLU review of arrests between 2010 and 2018, blacks were 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana use than whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use.

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Jason Ortiz, executive director of Students for Wise Drug Policy, said the first step in ending the war on drugs, which disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities, is the release of those incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana crimes.

Ortiz said the crimes of cultivation, distribution and conspiracy are the same things that big companies are able to commercialize and profit from.

“There are multi-billion dollar companies that sell thousands of pounds of marijuana a year and do business in multiple states. So if we’re going to allow this type of transaction to happen, all in prisons doing anything like this Those who do this should be released immediately.”

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Rubis said he knew he would be punished for his choices in the 1990s, but not having his freedom for decades? He doesn’t think it’s fair.

He said his then-wife was three months pregnant when he was incarcerated. His eldest son is 5 and the other is 3. He couldn’t watch his children grow up, and dreams of rebuilding relationships faded over time.

Rubis was born in El Salvador and moved to Houston with his family as a child, maintaining a close relationship with his sister, brother and parents. But he worries that by the time he gets out of prison, his parents will be gone.

He tried to stay positive by filling his cell with books, of which he said about 100, filled shelves, desks and were stacked in corners. He put the Bible on his pillow – his main source of motivation and inspiration when he meditated every morning.

“I declare that my day is going to be a good day and my day is going to be peaceful,” he said. “No matter what, I will find joy in it.”

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