Twenty-five-year-old Weldon Angelos celebrated Christmas in federal prison this year ... just like he'll do every year until he's 80.
Last month, Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling marijuana to undercover police officers. As U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell pointed out at sentencing, that's more time than he would have received if he had hijacked an airplane (25 years), beaten someone to death in a fight (13 years), or raped a 10-year-old child (11 years).
In fact, the maximum sentence for all those crimes combined is less than the federal mandatory minimum sentence for a drug felony involving a gun. (Angelos was carrying a gun at the time of his arrest, although he never brandished it or threatened anyone.)
The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case justified putting Angelos -- a first-time offender and father of two -- behind bars for 55 years by saying that he was a "purveyor of poison" who got what he deserved. (The "poison" was marijuana, which has never killed anyone.)
Angelos isn't alone in having his life destroyed by the government's war on marijuana users:
Jonathan Magbie died three months ago while serving a 10-day sentence for marijuana possession in a jail in Washington, D.C. Magbie, a 27-year-old quadriplegic, used marijuana to treat his chronic pain. He was unable to breathe on his own, and the jail -- unequipped to meet his medical needs -- allowed him to die while in custody.
And last year, a 19-year-old Florida college student was brutally raped by his cellmate while serving the first of four weekends in jail for a small-scale marijuana offense.
And the year before that, 20-year-old Jose Colon -- just months away from being the first in his family to obtain a college degree -- was shot and killed by police in a raid in which eight ounces of marijuana were seized. Colon wasn't even a suspect. He just happened to be visiting the house being raided, and he had no drugs or weapons on him.
Every week, we at the Marijuana Policy Project confront extreme government abuses like these, as the war on marijuana users rages on, with the government arresting law-abiding citizens, seizing their property, locking them up for decades, and even killing them.
With the help of our 18,000 dues-paying members, MPP is working to end the persecution and destruction of people like Weldon Angelos, Jonathan Magbie, and millions of others. You can help us bring sense to our nation's marijuana policies by making a financial contribution to our work at http://www.mpp.org/donate1097 today.
Your help is desperately needed. The government is arresting more than 700,000 marijuana users a year -- that's one arrest every 42 seconds -- which is more than the number of arrests for robbery and all violent crimes combined. (And about 88% of all marijuana arrests are for possession, not sale or manufacture.)
This holiday season, let's remember the many, many victims of the government's war on marijuana users -- the cancer patients living in fear of arrest for using marijuana to quell their nausea and help them keep food down ... the college students losing their financial aid for smoking a joint ... the AIDS patients using medical marijuana to ease the pain of their final months, terrified of losing their homes if caught ... and the thousands staring at empty cell walls for doing nothing more harmful than possessing marijuana.
We can and will put an end to this cruel and unjust war. Please visit http://www.mpp.org/donate1097 to stand with us in the fight. Thank you.
Marijuana Policy Project
P.S. With December 31 fast approaching, there are only two more days to receive a 2004 tax deduction by donating to MPP Foundation. Donations to MPP Foundation, the public education branch of the organization, are tax-deductible. Donations to MPP, the lobbying branch of the organization, are not tax-deductible. Make sure to check the "MPP Foundation" box on the donation form if you want a tax deduction.
P.P.S. If you donate $250 or more this year, you will receive in February a compilation DVD featuring the TV ads and TV news coverage of the statewide ballot initiative campaigns in Alaska, Montana, and Oregon this year, as well as excerpts from Montel Williams' national TV show about medical marijuana.
The Marijuana Policy Project hopes that each of the 157,000 subscribers on our national e-mail list will make at least one financial donation to MPP's work in 2004. According to our records, you have not yet donated this year. Would you please consider making one donation this year by visiting