The story of Weldon Angelos is one that every marijuana reform supporter should know. Weldon Angelos is currently serving a 55 year prison sentence for selling $350 worth of marijuana while having guns in his home in 2004. A lot of people don’t know that possessing a firearm while selling marijuana results in huge federal penalties.
If you get caught possessing a firearm during a drug transaction, federal law requires a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for the first offense, and 25 years for each subsequent offense. Also, there is no parole for federal offenses. These rigid guidelines are way to harsh, and don’t allow any flexibility when it comes to sentencing. In Oregon we have minimum sentencing for some offenses (not marijuana), and they are horrible public policy.
“There is no question that Mr. Angelos committed a crime and deserved to be punished. But 55 years?” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said, according to Fox News. “Mr. Angelos will be in prison until he is nearly 80 years old. His children, only 5 and 6 at the time of his sentencing, will be in their 60s. American taxpayers will have spent more than $1.5 million locking him up.”
Mr. Angelos lost his original appeal, and his case was denied by the United States Supreme Court. The only option now is a pardon by the Obama Administration. A 114 person coalition is asking for exactly that. An ex-FBI director, former judges, prosecutors, scholars , politicians, and celebrities have signed a request asking for the Obama Administration to step up. I’d go one step further and urge federal lawmakers to reform mandatory minimum sentencing in addition to a pardon for Mr. Angelos.