Dear President Biden: commute this sentence!
Terrell Davis, professionally known as Ralo, is an acclaimed recording artist who is facing approximately 7 years in federal prison selling cannabis, something that is legal in the majority of states. He has already served three years in prison for a non-violent cannabis offense. This should be enough.
Our nation’s view of cannabis has evolved, and it is indefensible to incarcerate citizens based on the unduly harsh attitudes of past generations. Before leaving office, President Trump commuted the sentences of a dozen individuals who were serving lengthy prison sentences for cannabis offenses. But due to the backlog, many deserving individuals were left behind, including Ralo. That form of random-selection clemency needs to be replaced with a principled, active, and meaningful reform that better fits modern America.
In 2017, then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, expressed support for ending the federal ban on marijuana. In November 2019, during a Democratic Primary Debate, you stated: “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone – anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.” In April 2019, then-US Senator Kamala Harris was asked if she would pardon low-level drug offenders if elected and answered “Absolutely. We have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison because they were convicted under draconian laws that have incarcerated them ... for what is essentially a public health issue.”
And for the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a law (the MORE Act) that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and thus end federal prosecutions of marijuana offenses. However, despite our nation’s shift in attitude towards cannabis, there tends to lack any real avenue of relief for those who are still serving or facing lengthy federal prison terms for selling cannabis. Given the timidity of the proposed legislation, the gridlock in Congress, and the imperative of freedom, clemency is the right tool to fix this problem.
You and you alone have the power to call out a grand hypocrisy of prior administrations. While cannabis became a thriving, legal market and enriched many, your predecessors largely ignored the people who were—and are—serving long federal terms for doing the same thing.
Please commute Ralo’s sentence so that he may return home to his family.