Longest-Serving Cannabis Prisoner Finally Out of Jail

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One of the reasons that legal reforms regarding cannabis took so long to enact was that people really didn’t understand the injustice of prohibition before the internet made information more accessible. A lot of people assumed that those who used or sold cannabis would face smaller penalties than those accused of using or selling harder drugs. Unfortunately, the Schedule I status of cannabis makes that assumption wildly inaccurate.

Some people accused of selling, growing, or transporting cannabis faced extremely long prison sentences as a results of their involvement with this increasingly popular plant. A story today that hasn’t received a lot of mainstream media traction highlights the inequities of the War on Drugs.

Antonio “Tony” Bascaro, an 84-year-old Cuban immigrant and military veteran from the Bay of Pigs, has spent 39 years in prison because of cannabis. He was part of a cannabis smuggling operation in the 1970s, and his sentence reflects the fact that he helped bring hundreds of thousands of pounds of cannabis into the country. Despite his military service, his lack of official citizenship could mean deportation.

However, today, May 1st, 2019, he finally secured his release from prison, even though he will need to meet with immigration officials after the end of his sentence. He will technically remain under house arrest at a halfway house until June 8, at which time he will officially be free of the 60 year sentence that justice originally served to him. His release is worthy of celebration, but it also raises some important questions.

How is it legal and ethical for businesses to profit from cannabis when there are still individuals in prison for that exact substance? How could we deport a military veteran because of a non-violent offense? We need to take a very close look at how to do right by those who have languished in prison for years or dealt with the financial difficulty that comes with a criminal conviction. Doing right by those convicted of cannabis offenses is a social justice issue. It is also an economically issue.

Convicts often face extreme discrimination when seeking employment. They may find it impossible to secure good jobs or rental properties in safe neighborhoods. There is also the issue of student financial aid, which those with drug convictions typically cannot receive. Although Antonia Bascaro finally gets his life back, he still has a battle in front of him.

Additionally, there are many others like him, even if they haven’t spent such a ridiculously long time in jail. At a time when national support for cannabis legalization has never been higher, it is a shame and a tragedy that there are still individuals incarcerated just for their involvement with this plant.

For previous Ladybud articles about veterans, click here.