Prisons in America are still full of nonviolent marijuana offenders, almost a decade into theAFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Sometime before Christmas, Richard DeLisi, 71, will finally be released from the Florida prison where he has lived since 1988.
DeLisi is serving a 90-year prison term for selling marijuana. He tried to sell quite a bit of it—1,500 pounds, as a Miami New Times profile recounts—but he was never charged with a violent crime. Nor was he alleged to have hurt anyone.
Marijuana legalization is very popular these days, and DeLisi has already served more than twice the average sentence for murder. So it seems reasonable and good that he’d be let out, to enjoy what time he has left in relative freedom.
For this, he has COVID-19 to thank—and not marijuana legalization.
Legalization is proving extremely effective at creating a new class of entrepreneurs and creating wealth for investors, but not very good at fulfilling some of its most basic promises.
There are about 40,000 people still incarcerated for cannabis crimes across the United States, advocates estimate. And legalization isn’t doing much to help any of them.
DeLisi is being released from prison because he is in poor health. As USA Today reported last week, DeLisi suffers from COPD and asthma. He will likely die if he contracts the novel coronavirus while incarcerated, as has happened to many prisoners across the United States, as advocates for his release told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.