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In the same week, as the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned initiative 65, the formation of a medical marijuana program for Mississippi, they also put a Mississippi man behind bars for the rest of his life for cannabis possession.
Last week the Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld the life sentence for Allen Russel, for a cannabis possession charge he was convicted upon in 2019.
The 38-year-old Mississippi man, received life in prison in 2019 when a jury found him guilty for possessing 30 grams (1.05 oz) of marijuana. On Nov. 29, 2017, Russell was arrested by Hattiesburg police officers and court filings stated they seized “five bags of a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana,”.
The current law in Mississippi on marijuana states that possession of between 30 and 250 grams (1.05 and 8.8 ounces) of marijuana can carry a punishment of up to three years in prison, a $3,000 fine, or both. The law also states that a defendant can be sentenced to life without parole after serving at least one year in prison on two separate felonies. Due to Russel’s past convictions; two home burglaries in 2004 and another charge in 2015 for unlawful possession of a firearm, the Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld life in prison for Russel.
Between Russel’s prior convictions he has served over 10 years in prison and now will have to serve the rest of his life for his most recent cannabis possession charge. Russel appealed the sentence and stated that it was a “cruel and unusual punishment and is grossly disproportionate”.
Regardless of the majority of the appeals court voting against the appeal, there were several judges who made statements disagreeing stating that judges are able to consider individual cases and make exceptions. Judge Westbroke had this to say: “The purpose of the criminal justice system is to punish those who break the law, deter them from making similar mistakes, and give them the opportunity to become productive members of society, and the fact that judges are not routinely given the ability to exercise discretion in sentencing all habitual offenders is completely at odds with this goal.”
According to the Civil Liberties Union, black people are more than 3x as likely to be arrested for marijuana infractions as white people. Russel’s conviction is very disheartening for not only the black community but also for the cannabis community as many states are lessening the punishments for cannabis-related offenses and legalizing medical and recreational use in countless US states.
Click Here to learn more about what My Marijuana Cards is doing to help inform prospective medical marijuana card patients in Mississippi. Be sure to follow our social media platforms and subscribe to our newsletter. We are here to keep you up to date on the progress of the denial of Initiative 65 and everything in Mississippi relating to medical marijuana and its existence of a program. Give us a call at 877-783-1805 and our friendly patient coordinators will inform you of any updates and advances of the supposed program.