[Canniseur: At last. At least a little justice. It’s about time. Just over a 1/2 gram got this guy a LIFE sentence. A life sentence. The ludicrousness of our cannabis laws and how they’re enforced, especially against people of color, is kind of stupid. The U.S. should be a better place than this, but …]
U.S. Army veteran Derek Harris, who was sentenced to life in prison over $30 worth of weed, has gone home afree man.
Aspreviously reported by MERRY JANE, Harris got busted in 2008 for selling 0.69 grams of marijuana to an undercover agent. For this alleged offense, a judge initially sentenced Harris to an outrageous 15 years in prison. And then it got worse.
In 2012, Harris fell prey to Louisiana’s obsceneHabitual Offender Law, a nightmarish legal code that empowers judges to increase penalties after an inmate has already been sentenced. Suddenly, Harris’s term was upped to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Yes, you read that correctly.
Nearly a decade later, Harris’s work with attorneys fromThe Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) resulted in a landmark Louisiana Supreme Court decision that changed everything and may have far-reaching positive consequences.
Harris’s sentence was reduced to time served, followed by an order for him to be released. After more than nine years behind bars, Harris has walked free from the Louisiana State Penitentiary and returned to the life that was stolen from him. Now a fresh set of challenges begins.
The PJI reported that Harris worked in the prison hospital for years. He presently has no job and is in need of “medications and other necessities to get him started in his new life.” AGoFundMe page has been set up to assist Harris with this transition.
“Supporting Derek did not end with overturning his egregious life sentence and it did not end the day he walked out of Angola,” stated Cormac Boyle, a PJI lawyer who represents Harris. “Righting the harms done to a person through incarceration includes supporting their health, housing, and adjustment to their long-deserved freedom. We need all the help we can get.”
The lawsuit that ultimately won Harris his freedom stemmed from his lack of proper representation while getting sentenced. After hearing the case, all but one member of the Louisiana Supreme Court voted to allow Harris a new hearing.
In his majority opinion on the ruling, Chief Justice John Weimerwrote that Harris “developed a substance abuse problem after returning from his honorable military service in Desert Storm, and his prior offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs.”
The court’s decision not only liberated Harris, it was a landmark victory that defies and undermines a1996 ruling that barred inmates from legally battling their “post-conviction” penalties.
“Mr. Harris’s resentencing gives hope to many others around the state who have unjustly suffered under the Habitual Offender Law,” the PJIstated on its website. “(They) will now be able to challenge their sentences post-conviction.”
“This delayed justice was a terrifying ordeal for Derek and his family,” wrote Mercedes Montagnes, PJI executive director, in a statement. “As COVID-19 rates continue to rise in DOC facilities, every day spent in Angola was a tremendous risk for Derek’s health and safety… [now] Promise of Justice Initiative will continue to fight for the release of all those who should be home safe with their families.”
[Canniseur: It would seem that the American Heart Association is making statements without any real scientific research and at the same time saying that cannabis should be removed from Schedule 1. There’s a small(?) disconnect here, but I’m thinking they’ve got a higher concept about what they’re doing.]
Earlier this week, the American Heart Association (AHA) reportedly made two public statements regarding marijuana that seemed to contradict each other — sort of.
First came a claim that smoking weed is dangerous to cardiovascular health and should be avoided. At the same time, however, the AHA called for cannabis to be removed as a Schedule 1 drug so that scientists can research it freely.
It’s difficult not to interpret the underlying message of these apparently disparate stances as: “Weed is bad for your overall health, but it’s a good way for us to get more money so we can conduct more studies to show that cannabis is bad.”
Usually organizations like to hide the fact they have an agenda. But, let’s look at the individual statements and try to keep our heart rates in check.
Following a study published Wednesday in the journal Circulation, Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, the AHA’s deputy chief science and medical officer, said in a statement, “People who use cannabis need to know there are potentially serious health risks in smoking or vaping it, just like tobacco smoke. The American Heart Association recommends that people not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels.”
The study itself reportedly found “no cardiovascular benefits” in ingesting weed and claims that doing so may “trigger cardiovascular conditions or events, such as heart attacks and strokes.”
Addressing those alleged concerns, an AHA writing group led by clinical physician Robert Page II suggested that if people use cannabis medicinally or recreationally in measured doses, particularly in the oral and topical forms, some of the potential harms could be reduced.
Page’s group statement also called for regulators to standardize THC and CBD concentrations in legal weed and — in a potential move that might directly benefit the AHA — declared that cannabis should be rescheduled so more government funds can be directed toward its research.
“We urgently need carefully designed, prospective short- and long-term studies regarding cannabis use and cardiovascular safety as it becomes increasingly available and more widely used,” Page stated. “Research funding at federal and state levels must be increased to match the expansion of cannabis use.”
Did everybody catch that last part about “research funding… must be increased”?
Don’t get us wrong: We obviously need more research on cannabis, and we want it rescheduled (but descheduling might be better!). It’s just hard to trust an organization that uses its “findings” to release blanket statements such as “Weed is bad.” It doesn’t seem like the AHA is interested in genuine reform that will mend the wrongs of the Drug War by clearing recordings, pardoning convictions, and granting clemency to people sitting behind bars for a plant that is legal in some form across the majority of the US.
Sure, smoking anything can have adverse effects on our health. But, numerous studies have already demonstrated the myriad benefits of marijuana when it comes to cardiovascular well-being and other health issues, particularly when cannabis is ingested orally.
One 2018 study from the University of Colorado concluded that weed users have a better chance of surviving a heart attack. A University of Mississippi Medical Center study published this past June also found no evidence whatsoever linking to an increased risk of strokes.
In other studies,hypertension patients saw a drop in blood pressure after using weed and researchers noted positive effects of cannabis on mice in slowing the progress ofatherosclerosis and offering protection against chronicchronic heart failure.
The American Heart Association may have their own agenda in calling for rescheduling, but so do we: Legalize weed now because weed is good for you, and the Drug War is a racist fallacy designed to oppress Black and people of color.