President Biden commutes sentences of 9 marijuana prisoners

Although candidate Joe Biden vowed to decriminalize cannabis and automatically expunge prior convictions, President Joe Biden has been slow to follow through on his pledge.

This morning, however, Biden took his first step towards that goal. The president granted clemency to 78 individuals. Among them are nine men and women charged with marijuana-related offenses.

Biden commuted—in other words, shortened—their sentences. They are all currently serving their sentences at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per their original convictions, they will remain under supervised release following the end of their sentences.

Biden additionally pardoned Dexter Eugene Jackson, who had been convicted of a cannabis-related charge but had already finished his sentence.

Why these individuals and not others?

Although these individuals are all non-violent offenders with less than four years left in their sentences, the White House’s announcement does not explain why Biden’s team selected these individuals for clemency. 

In granting clemency to non-violent drug offenders, Biden follows in the footsteps of his predecessors: President Trump granted clemency to 12 individuals with marijuana-related offenses (and two dozen additional nonviolent drug offenders) on his last day in office. President Obama pardoned more than 1,300 nonviolent drug offenders (it is unclear how many were specifically marijuana-related) in the course of his presidency.

While Biden’s actions underscore how much work remains to be done to bring justice to past cannabis offenders, his decision nonetheless marks a huge moment for these individuals and their families.

Read on to learn more about the nine individuals granted clemency this morning.

Dexter Eugene Jackson

Dexter Jackson, of Athens, Georgia, was convicted in 2002 for allowing marijuana distributors to use his pool hall to “facilitate drug transactions.” He did not traffic drugs himself. President Biden pardoned Mr. Jackson today.

The White House notes that since his release from custody, Mr. Jackson, now 52, converted his pool hall into a cell-phone repair service and regularly hires high-school students as employees. He has also “worked to build and renovate homes in a community that lacks quality affordable housing.”

Ramola Kaye Brown

The Southern District Court of Texas charged Ms. Brown with “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and less than 50 kilograms of marijuana in 2016.

She was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment, and five years of supervised release.

Her commuted sentence will end on April 26, 2023.

Jose Luis Colunga

Eastern District Court of Tennessee charged Mr. Colunga, of Juniata, Nebraska, with “Conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana.” He was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release. 

His commuted sentence will end on October 26, 2023.

Stacie Demers

The Northern District Court of New York charged Stacie Demers with “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana; aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute marijuana.” 

She was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

Her commuted sentence will end on April 26, 2023.

Christopher Gunter

The District Court of South Carolina charged Mr. Gunter with “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana; possession with intent to distribute a quantity of marijuana and a quantity of MDMA.”

He was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and ten years of supervised release.

His commuted sentence will end on August 24 of this year.

Carry Le

The Southern District of Texas charged Carry Le with “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants.”

Le was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

Le’s commuted sentence will end on April 26, 2023.

Paul A. Lupercio

Western District Court of Missouri charged Paul A. Lupercio with “Conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and five kilograms or more of cocaine.”

He was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release.

His commuted sentence will end on August 24 of this year.

Quang Nguyen

The Southern District Court of Texas charged Quang Nguyen with “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants.”

Nguyen was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

Nguyen’s commuted sentence will end on April 26, 2023.

Fermin Serna 

The Southern District Court of Texas charged Mr. Serna with “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.”

He was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release.

Mr. Serna’s commuted sentence will end on August 24 of this year.

Max Savage Levenson's Bio Image

Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

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