February 20, 2023

Why Governors Can’t Delay Cannabis Clemency Any Longer

Stephen Post
February 20, 2023

This post was written by Stephen J. Post, Sr. Communications Associate at Last Prisoner Project.

Last Prisoner Project (LPP) is a national, nonpartisan non-profit organization comprised of cannabis industry leaders and social justice advocates dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. Click here to support LPP in their mission in freeing all cannabis prisoners—Dutchie will be matching all donations up to $1 million.

As Rudi Gammo prepares for his next parole hearing in March, he can't help but think of reuniting with his wife and children. "I see the light at the end of the tunnel," he says. 

However, he should have reached that destination long ago. Rudi, who once ran city-sanctioned medical dispensaries in Detroit, has served almost five years of his 5.5-year sentence for a non-violent cannabis offense. And despite Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's 2019 promise to release and expunge the records of those with cannabis-related convictions, his clemency paperwork has been waiting on her desk for over seven months without her signature.

That waiting takes a toll. Rudi says,

“I've been on a roller coaster of emotions since covid started. First, for not being able to see my family during COVID and especially because my son was sick and going through chemo treatment. I’m going to be 44 years old, my soul is tired, my family is tired, and my absence is really starting to affect my kid's life development. It breaks my heart every day when I talk to my wife Vida, and my children. I listen to their problems, and I'm unable to do anything besides be the voice of reason on the phone.”
Rudi Gammo (center) with his wife Vida (right) and three children

And while Last Prisoner Project is disappointed with Governor Whitmer's inaction, it’s worth noting that she is not alone.

In many states, governors have the power to release people or shorten their sentences by issuing clemency grants. These grants can take the form of pardons (which reduce some or all of the legal consequences of a criminal record) or commutations (which amend custodial sentences). However, despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of people in similar situations as Rudi’s across the nation, most governors have failed to use their clemency power to grant them relief (in many cases, even after their states have legalized). 

This is unacceptable. Last Prisoner Project, along with the majority of the country, is of the opinion that it’s immoral to incarcerate cannabis prisoners at the same time countless others profit from state-regulated cannabis sales.

Rudi recognizes this hypocrisy, saying,

“I really don't understand how [they] couldn't pull off doing something to give back to the millions of people affected by old cannabis laws when they are making millions in return.”

He also doesn't want to see other people suffer the harm of incarceration because of government inaction:

“What I hope to see one day is that every Governor in legal recreational states sign executive orders releasing people in prison for nonviolent cannabis offenses.”

And most Americans, including a majority of Republicans and Democrats, are in agreement. Recent polling has found that 72% of voters support pardoning those with cannabis-related convictions. But the public needs to pressure their governors to do what’s right. 

That's why Last Prisoner Project has launched our Pardons to Progress campaign. This campaign helps equip the public, as well as gubernatorial offices, with the tools needed to make mass, state-level cannabis clemency a reality. 

On this World Day of Social Justice, head to www.pardonstoprogress.com to learn how you can contact your governor and encourage them to release our country’s cannabis prisoners!

About the author
Stephen Post
Senior Communications Associate @ Last Prisoner Project