The year 2018 has brought about progress in the cannabis legalization movement, mounting expungement announcements, and large amounts of tax revenue. But as the country celebrates Mother’s Day, there are mothers sitting in prison for crimes that today are no longer illegal.
The United States, which makes up only five percent of the planet’s population has the world’s highest prison rates, with more than 2.3 million Americans behind bars and at least another 7 million under some form of criminal supervision.
According to the ACLU, between 2001 and 2010 more than 8 million cannabis-related arrests occurred in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds.
Of these, 219,000 are women — and 80 percent of them are mothers.
Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent, compared with 419 percent for men.
Amy Povah, who served nine years of a 24-year sentence for drug conspiracy, is the founder and director of the non-profit CAN-DO Foundation. CAN-DO stands for Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders. She points out that while not all incarcerated women are doing time on cannabis-related charges, many are imprisoned for drug offenses as a result of federal mandatory minimum laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the failed war on drugs.
Povah told Marijuana.com that women are more likely than men to be serving long sentences because of drugs a spouse or male partner possessed or was selling.
“And because of the broad application of the conspiracy law, the converse is not true. Very few men end up with long sentences based on illegal activity of their partners or girlfriends,” said Povah.
She pointed to Patricia Albright, 66, who in 2016 received a 65-month sentence for manufacturing marijuana. Albright’s CAN-DO Foundation profile details how, on the recommendation of an oncologist, she treated her late son, Trevor with cannabis to alleviate his pain and improve his quality of life. Trevor succumbed to terminal cancer in 1984.
In a US Observer profile, Albright said Trevor’s quality of life improved immensely. Despite Trevor’s death, Albright “became a believer,” and started a medicinal marijuana collective with 10 patients.
In late 2010, an El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy reported the collective, resulting in an investigation. Albright assumed that she was growing in accordance of the law, considering she had acquired a California State Medical Marijuana Card and was allowed to operate under state law.
The federal government prosecuted not only Albright, but her son and third child, Jordan. She was tried in federal court, where she was found guilty. Albright is currently serving her sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution Dublin in California.
“How is it possible that tens of thousands celebrate 4/20 around the country?” Povah asked. “We can’t debate, or celebrate, marijuana legalization while leaving our POWs behind on the battlefield.”