Country’s Longest Serving Pot Convict to Be Freed

Richard DeLisi was sentenced to 90 years in prison in 1989 for trafficking cannabis, conspiracy to traffic in cannabis, and violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. Soon he will be a free man.

DeLisi, now 71, is the longest-serving prisoner for a marijuana offense in America. His impending release from the South Bay Correctional Facility in Florida is owed to the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), which works to end cannabis incarceration in the United States.

LPP Lead Advocate Mariah L. Daly said DeLisi’s long sentence was a product of the War on Drugs. Recommended sentencing for a crime like DeLisi’s was 12-13 years, but many judges felt compelled to make examples out of drug users and traffickers at a time when marijuana was a national boogeyman.

Miami New Times explains the dynamics in Florida at the time DeLisi was convicted. 

“After Ronald Reagan's election in 1981, the War on Drugs ramped up to new levels of insanity. And the Sunshine State went full-on Rambo in attacking Mary Jane...

“In 1983, the feds arrested 28 people in a community of only 600. Over the next several years, the agencies would make more than 300 arrests in the rural area and confiscate hundreds of fishing boats that had long been the backbone of the community's economy.”

DeLisi reacted to the news of his release with elation.

“I am so excited to hug my children and grandchildren. I have missed so many important moments with them and I can't wait to get out there and create precious memories with everyone,” he told Insider

"I am so thrilled that this dark chapter of my life is finally over."