After serving more than 30 years of a “life sentence” for conspiring to transport cannabis from Jamaica into the United States, Richard DeLisi hopes to spend Christmas with his family. Due to failing health and increased COIV-19 cases in the prison, the 71-year-old could be released in early December, according to NBC News on Nov. 21, 2020.
He was sentenced to serve 90 years for smuggling marijuana into Florida in 1989 after he and his brother, Ted, were caught during a sting/entrapment operation. The verdict breakdown is 30 years each for trafficking cannabis, conspiracy to traffic it, and racketeering.
DeLisi’s incarceration makes him the “longest-serving cannabis offender,” as described by the Last Prisoner Project, which works toward criminal justice reform for marijuana-related crimes. Lawyers from Last Prisoner Project have been working pro bono to help free DeLisi from the South Bay Correctional Facility.
While he would be released due to good behavior in 2022, his medical problems make him highly susceptible to contracting the virus. DiLisi uses a walker; he has arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, back issues, and COPD.
The prison, located in Palm Beach County, has 85 inmates under medical quarantine. Of the 2,040 coronavirus tests administered, 421 had positive results as of November 21 at noon EST. Moreover, 87 staff members have tested positive.
His family, friends, and advocates are concerned — they do not want him to become a statistic. One of the attorneys working on DeLisi’s release said:
He is an elder in poor health, and he is in a prison that is experiencing a COVID-19 pandemic.
DeLisi’s son, Rick, says he does not know many people have not tried cannabis. He called the Ameican prison system “a vampire that feeds off those at the bottom.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Leafly: America’s longest-held cannabis captive, Richard DeLisi will be set free in December; by Fatma Khaled
NBC News: ‘Longest-serving cannabis offender’ to be released early from 90-year prison sentence; by Alicia Victoria Lozano
Leafly: Richard DeLisi, 71, suffers in a Florida prison while others make millions on marijuana; by Fatma Khaled
Miami New Times: Meet the Americans Serving Life in Jail for Weed; by Allie Conti
Free DeLisi: Life in Prison for Cannabis
All Images Courtesy of Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License