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Mandatory sentence sends disabled man to jail for marijuana

Laws pertaining to drugs in Alabama are very serious. Some carry the possibility of mandatory sentences that are sometimes viewed as too harsh for the crime. When there is the possibility of a mandatory sentence, a defense strategy that fights the charge is crucial. A recent story highlights the problem with mandatory sentences.

A disabled veteran was sentenced to life in prison in July of 2011. The 75-year-old man had previously been convicted of armed robberies in Florida, but that occurred 20 years ago. He served his 10-year sentence. The man’s criminal history was a determining factor when he was handed the life sentence in 2011.

The man, who is from Dothan, was growing three dozen marijuana plants that he says he used to help his many ailments. That fact wasn’t disputed by the prosecution. The judge noted that if he could have sentenced the man to a shorter prison sentence, he would have. The only way the sentence could have been avoided would have been if the prosecutor had opted to pursue a different charge, but he didn’t do that.

The man’s case included 2.8 pounds of marijuana. In Alabama, possession of marijuana in amounts less than 2.2 pounds wouldn’t result in a life without parole sentence. In this case, the weight of the marijuana included parts of the plants that weren’t usable, such as the stalks and vines.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is one of the people who noted that this case shows that there are “grave flaws” with the laws that govern sentencing. Despite the fact that so many people are against these sentencing laws and the assertion that the sentence violated his Eighth Amendment rights, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the man’s case on April 18. This means the life sentence stands and the man who fought for our freedom will spend his final days in prison.

Source: Opposing Views, “Disabled Veteran, 75, Gets Life Sentence For Marijuana,” Michael Allen, April 21, 2016