Man Serving 90-Year Prison Sentence for Marijuana Trafficking Might Be Released This Year

An unnerving story of drug sentencing and imprisonment

A man serving a 90-year sentence for marijuana trafficking may be released early.
Bill Oxford/Unsplash

Over the last few years, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana — some for recreational purposes, some for medical purposes and some for both. Momentum seems to be on the side of legalization advocates, but that’s led to a broader discussion about what to do with people who’d been sentenced for drug offenses for a drug that is now, in some states, no more illegal than alcohol.

The idea of reforming the laws around marijuana sentencing is one of the first things that comes to mind when considering the case of Richard DeLisi, now 71, who’s spent the last 3 decades in a Florida prison. In 1989, he was sentenced to 90 years; decades later, he may soon be released.

A number of factors play into DeLisi’s early release, including his own health problems and concerns over COVID-19 in the facility where he’s being detained.

At NBC News, Alicia Victoria Lozano has more details on DeLisi’s case. Lozano’s article notes that the nonprofit Last Prisoner Project has described DeLisi as the “longest-serving cannabis offender in the country.” He was initially sentenced for his role in a plan to transport a considerable amount of cannabis from Jamaica to the United States along with his brother. In DeLisi’s brother, sentenced at the same time, successfully appealed his conviction in 2013.

The fact that the offense was nonviolent, as well as the size of the brothers’ sentences relative to what was expected, have contributed to a sense that an injustice was done in their sentencing. According to the article, the Florida Department of Corrections thinks DeLisi could be released as early as December 4 of this year.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.