Beth Curtis, whose younger brother is doing life without parole for marijuana, wrote a version of this as a comment. It's worth sharing as an article. Beth, from Zanesville, Ohio, runs www.lifeforpot.com.
The mantra of Congress members who are against using clemency as a solution to a systemic problem is that it has never been done before — that it is executive overreach to carve out a group of many offenders who violated laws that Congress passed. These Congress members have failed to do their homework. Group or systemic clemency or amnesty has been granted by many presidents, dating back to George Washington.
1. George Washington granted it to those involved in the Whiskey Rebellion.
2. James Madison granted it to the Lafitte Pirates after the War of 1812.
3. Abraham Lincoln gave clemency to about 260 Dakota Indians who were involved in the Sioux uprising.
4. Benjamin Harrison granted Amnesty and Pardon in 1893 for those engaging in Plural Marriage.
5. Theodore Roosevelt granted clemency to participants of the Philippine Insurrection.
6. Warren Harding granted amnesty to those who violated the sedition and espionage laws of WWI.
7. George Bush granted clemency for those involved in the Iran-Contra scandal.
8. The blanket amnesty granted to 3,000,000 individuals who were undocumented immigrants could be called a category of offender amnesty.
My wording and simplistic explanations could be done with more nuance by legal scholars or academics, but I would simply say that, for those who received this mercy, the meaning is the same.
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In December of 2012, lawyers Michael Kennedy and David Holland submitted a Group Petition for Clemency for five nonviolent, elder, marijuana offenders serving sentences of Life without Parole for marijuana. They had all been charged with conspiracy and all exercised their Sixth Amendment right to trial. (This is a topic for another day). The petition can be found at: http://lifeforpot.com/images/PETITION_FINAL_FROM_MICHAEL.pdf
Here's a photo of my wonderful brother, John Knock. He's 66 years old and had been in prison since 1996.
Paul Free is another one of the federal marijuana lifers. He's been in prison for 20 years and is now 63.