Editors note: as this story develops, we will update throughout the day with the most recent information.
Article updated: January 20, 2021, 10:00 am PST
In addition to the predictable recipients of Donald Trump’s clemency powers—war criminals, corrupt political allies, racketeers, and gun law violators like Lil Wayne—a handful of non-violent pot and drug-related prisoners are also benefiting, thanks to criminal justice advocates and persistent supporters within the cannabis and entertainment community.
Michael “Harry-O” Harris
Harris, known as Harry-O, spent thirty-three years in prison on attempted murder and drug trafficking-related charges. Among other activities, many of which were undertaken inside prison walls, Harry-O co-founded Death Row Records, which he named after a stint on death row in San Quentin.
The now defunct but once extremely influential label played a key role in hip-hop history and helped launch the careers of such greats as Dr Dre, 2Pac and Snoop Dogg.
Snoop has been close to Harry-O ever since.
“Snoop Dogg personally asked me to push for Harry-O’s release. He also sent some heartfelt messages himself to the White House,” said Weldon Angelos, founder and director of Mission [Green]: The Weldon Project.
“Now that it’s happening, he can’t believe it’s real. Snoop owes his career to Harry O,” Angelos told High Times in a phone conversation that was interrupted twice by an ecstatic Snoop Dogg.
“This is a huge day for hip hop We need more people like Harry-O to guide our young people,” said Snoop who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s presidency.
We also need more people like Alice Johnson, who along with Angelos, worked tirelessly to get Harry-O—and as many pot prisoners as possible—onto Trump’s radar. All three have served time in federal prisons and are presidential pardon recipients.
“Actually, Alice [Johnson] has been at the heart of this whole clemency effort. She’s had the president’s ear this whole time,” Angelos said. “We all work as a team but Alice seems to have carte blanche with Trump and she won’t take no for an answer.”
#Cut50 and Reform Alliance, among others, also played important roles in advancing fair criminal justice policies.
Knock, 73, was serving two life sentences without parole for conspiracy to distribute cannabis. He’d already served 26. Knock is the last of five elderly pot prisoners serving life sentences for whom Michael Kennedy, the late general counsel and former chairman of High Times magazine, along with Attorney David Holland had petitioned President Obama in 2012 for executive clemency. Holland also served as assistant legal counsel for High Times.
Knock’s sister, Beth Curtis, worked tirelessly for the release of her brother as well as other prisoners over the past two decades through the website she founded: lifeforpot.com.
Pelletier, 65, has been in federal prison since 2006 serving a life sentence without parole for a nonviolent, victimless marijuana conspiracy offense. He is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic—the result of an accident when he was eleven years old.
Though Amy Povah works for all prisoners as founder and president of the CAN-DO Foundation, she became Pelletier’s guardian angel. A former federal prisoner herself, Povah’s sentence was commuted by President Clinton and she recently received a full pardon from President Trump.
“I’m elated for our pot prisoners, but especially Michael Pelletier who has been #1 on the CAN-DO Top 25 Men Most Deserving Clemency dating back to the Obama administration,” Povah told High Times. “I wrote his clemency petition back in 2014 but it never got a response until now!”
In 2013, Cooper was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for conspiracy to sell marijuana. There were no allegations of violence against him. He was 34 at the time and the father of two daughters.
The cross-country investigation, “Operation Goldilocks, that led to Cooper’s bust resulted in more than 55 arrests, none of whom received life sentences and many of whom were already back home.
Patrick Megaro, Cooper’s pro bono lawyer of eight years, challenged the draconian life sentence as Cruel and Unusual Punishment, forbidden under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, but his appeal was denied.
Megaro knew his only hope was clemency. He’s now over the moon and grateful to everyone who supported his client and him “when all seemed lost.”
“I personally want to extend my deepest gratitude to Alice Johnson, Amy Povah, Corvain’s sweetheart of a mother Barbara, and of course, President Donald Trump for ‘making this one life breathe easier,’” Megaro told High Times.
The social-impact cannabis brand 40 Tons also threw its full support behind Cooper, in keeping with the company’s goal to free prisoners affected by unjust weed laws. 40 Tons is also helping former prisoners adjust to life after incarceration by helping them find employment and “build full and happy lives as they rejoin society.”
Anthony Alegrete, a high school friend of Cooper’s, was confident when others were still biting their nails. He flew to Louisiana to pick Cooper up and take him home!
Povah said she found it disconcerting that Cooper had been given a life sentence for a non-violent marijuana crime during the Obama administration, just four months before Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis.
“There’s really no logic behind anyone serving time for cannabis in this day and age, much less a life sentence for a plant that brings people medical relief and happiness,” Povah told High Times.
“Even Harry Anslinger never talked about giving cannabis offenders a life sentence,” Povah said.
Other Cannabis-Related Prisoners Who Received Clemency Or Pardon:
Lavonne Roach – Was serving a 30-year sentence, since 1994, for conspiracy to distribute meth. Roach, 63, and mother of three, is a Lakota Sioux woman. Clemency
Darrell Frazier, had served more than 30 years of a life sentence for drug conspiracy charges. Sentence commuted
Luis Gonzalez, 78, had served 27 years. Non-violent drug offender. Sentence commuted
Anthony DeJohn, served more than 13 years of a life sentence for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Sentence commuted
Jimmy Romans – Had served 13 years of life sentence without parole for his involvement in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Sentence commuted
Kenneth Charles Fragoso – Had served more than 30 years of a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. Fragoso is 66. Sentence commuted
Way Quoe Long, 58, sentence for non-violent conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. Sentence commuted
Craig Cesal – Full pardon
Amy Povah – Full pardon
Michelle West Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances was sentenced to two life sentences. Sentence commuted
Adriane Miller Had served six of a 15-year sentence for conspiracy with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Sentence commuted
Robert Francis – Was serving life sentence for non-violent drug conspiracy charges. Sentence commuted.
Brian Simmons – Had served 5 of 15 years for non-violent conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. Sentence commuted
David Barren – Had served 13 years of life sentence in addition to 20 years for a non-violent drug conspiracy charge. Sentence commuted
Jonathon Braun – Had served 5 years of a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to import marijuana and to commit money laundering. Sentence commuted
For more information, see White House press release.