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Florida man set for release after 31 years in prison on cannabis offenses



Nov. 29 — A man who has spent 31 years in prison for a nonviolent marijuana crime may be released in December.

In 1989 Florida resident Richard DeLisi was convicted on charges of racketeering, trafficking in cannabis and conspiracy after helping smuggle more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Colombia into Florida. He was sentenced to 90 years in prison.

According to the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that advocates for ending prison sentences for cannabis offenses, DeLisi is America’s longest-serving nonviolent cannabis offender.

But the organization, along with a team of pro-bono attorneys, have advocated for clemency for DeLisi, who is now 71.

He could be released from the South Bay Correctional Facility as early as Dec. 4, though the exact release date still depends on several factors, a Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman told CNN.

“It feels amazingly wonderful to know that I will be home with my family and loved ones very soon,” DeLisi said in a press release from Last Prisoner Project. “I am grateful to everyone who has been there and helped me along in these long years.”

DeLisi’s likely release follows a wave of public support for marijuana legalization and decriminalization, with five more states voting to legalize recreational use of the drug earlier this month.

Some states’ legalization and decriminalization initiatives have included provisions making it easier to get marijuana-related offenses expunged from one’s record, but laws vary state to state.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, one in five incarcerated people in the United States — which has the highest rate of incarceration in the world — was jailed for drug offenses.

“We participated in decarcerating someone who couldn’t deserve it more,” said Chiara Juster, the lead attorney on DeLisi’s case, who was matched with Richard through LPP’s pro-bono release program. “The fact that dear Richard is the longest serving non-violent cannabis offender currently incarcerated in our country is truly a sick indictment of our nation.”

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