Bill filed to release Missouri man serving life sentence for marijuana

Man was sentenced under 'tough-on-crime' laws that are now outdated

A life sentence without the possibility of parole is, short of the death penalty, the most punitive sentence the state can impose on a citizen. Most people would naturally assume that such a severe sentence would only be imposed for the most serious of violent offenders. A Missouri man, however, is currently serving just such a sentence not for the commission of a violent crime, but for marijuana possession with intent to distribute. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an effort is now underway by state lawmakers to have the man released early in light of the ridiculously disproportionate sentence.

Life for marijuana

The man's ordeal began in 1993 when he was arrested for marijuana possession with intent to distribute after purchasing between six to seven pounds of the drug. No weapons, minors, violence, or other aggravating factors were involved in the crime. His accomplice in the case received a 10-year prison sentence.

However, under Missouri's then-severe drug laws, people with multiple felony convictions were classified as "persistent drug offenders." Because the man already had two felony convictions on his record, he received a sentence of life without parole. According to Ozarks First, those harsh sentencing laws have since been removed by the legislature, yet the man in this case remains incarcerated. He is now serving his 21 st year in a Jefferson City prison.

Bill introduced

One state lawmaker has taken up the man's case by introducing a bill in the House that would require the parole board to release any person currently serving a sentence of life without parole under certain marijuana laws. Because the man described above is the only inmate currently serving such a sentence, the bill would only apply to him.

The lawmaker argues that the bill should be passed not only because the sentence the man is currently serving is clearly unfair and unduly harsh especially given that many states, including Missouri, are currently in the process of relaxing their marijuana laws, but because imprisoning him for life is an unnecessary taxpayer expense. He also points out that the man has a good prison record and has the support of his family should he be released.

Drug charges

While sentencing laws for drugs have relaxed somewhat in recent years, people charged with a drug crime need to understand that Missouri continues to have some of the toughest drug laws in the country. Lengthy prison sentences and a life-time criminal record are very real possibilities if convicted of a drug offense.

As a result, anybody who is currently facing a drug charge needs to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can discuss what options may be available to defendants and will work hard to help lessen the damage such a charge or conviction can carry.