Florida man released from prison after serving 31 years for nonviolent marijuana crime

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The longest-serving U.S. inmate incarcerated for a nonviolent marijuana crime walked free from South Bay Correctional Facility on Tuesday after serving 31 years of a 90-year sentence.

Richard DeLisi, 71, was sentenced in 1989 for trafficking in cannabis, conspiracy to traffic in cannabis and a violation of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, or RICO, Act, The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, reported.

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DeLisi and his older brother were each sentenced to three consecutive 30-year terms for agreeing to help smuggle more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Colombia into Florida, exceeding recommended judicial guidelines, the newspaper reported.

“It actually feels like 10 times better than wonderful,” DeLisi, told The Ledger by phone. “It was so unjust what they did to me. I just hope that I can help other people that are in the same situation.”

According to CNN, DeLisi’s case received legal support from the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for ending prison sentences for cannabis offenses. The group’s attorneys argued for DeLisi’s release on the grounds that his chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and obstructive pulmonary disease while incarcerated heightened his vulnerability to the novel coronavirus. They also stressed the nonviolent nature of his crimes and noted the drastic overhaul to marijuana laws nationwide since DeLisi’s sentence was imposed.

DeLisi’s release date had been slated for May 2021.

Kayla McLaughlin, press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections, told CNN, that DeLisi’s earlier-than-expected release was not “related to any action by an outside party.”

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