Don’t Be a Turkey President Obama, Pardon Prisoners Not Birds

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Every Thanksgiving since Abraham Lincoln began the tradition back in 1865, the US President pardons a pair of Thanksgiving turkeys. Instead of ending up on the receiving end of an ax, the birds get to live out the remainder of their lives in comfort down on the farm.

I have nothing against the White House turkeys. I am sure they are very nice birds. But rather than a silly symbolic gesture, wouldn’t it be more meaningful for the President to use his pardon power to actually send some deserving American citizens home to spend the holidays with their families instead?

Decorated Vietnam combat veteran Larry Duke would make a great place to start. The 66-year-old former marine has spent the last 25 years in federal prison for a nonviolent marijuana smuggling offense. For that transgression, Duke is condemned to spend the rest of his natural life in prison, without the possibility of parole, unless the President grants him a pardon.

Duke is far from the only formerly productive, tax-paying member of society sentenced to life for pot. Craig Cesal did nothing more than repair trucks that were used to haul marijuana to earn his life sentence. John Knock got caught in conspiracy charges because of his association with college acquaintance years earlier. Paul Free can clearly prove with physical evidence and witness affidavits that he could not possibly have committed the nonviolent marijuana crime that put him behind bars for life.

Not only would clemency for these men and others like them reunite American families, it would help ease the burden on the American taxpayer who has paid tens of thousands of dollars per year, per prisoner, to warehouse these men away for decades.

Pardoning a pair of turkeys, on the other hand, does nothing to reduce taxpayer debt or help the US economy.

A ProPublica analysis of Justice Department statistics shows that President Obama has granted far fewer pardons than Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush. Yet the Obama administration has indicated a desire to seek out cases worthy of clemency.

What better candidates deserving of mercy could there be than those serving life sentences for something 23 states have legalized medicinally and 4 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreationally? Even a turkey can see that’s a no-brainer.

For previous Ladybud Magazine coverage of people serving life for pot, click here.

Photo Credit: under public domain