A Man Died in Prison After Serving 26 Years for Cannabis

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It seems unfair and tragic that people still sit in jail for cannabis crimes when the plant has been legalized in so many places that millions of adults across North America can legally and safely use cannabis for either recreational or medical purposes.

Unfortunately, social justice attached to cannabis legalization has been much slower to spread than legalization itself. Thousands of non-violent offenders still sit in prison, convicted of cannabis offenses that arguably wouldn’t results in a conviction or lengthy sentence today. Millions of others live in reduced circumstances because of the lasting effects of a long-ago drug conviction.

For some individuals, their cannabis criminal sentence is actually a death sentence. And that is tragically what happened for Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda. Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda entered the United States as a Cuban refugee in 1980. He eventually began working as a laborer and got caught up in a massive trafficking bust while he was making only $50 a day. Thanks to conspiracy charges, he ended up paying the price for crimes very likely committed by someone else. Even if he were directly responsible for smuggling cannabis, that crime pales in comparison to the punishment he served.

In 1993, Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda wound up sentenced to life in prison, and he stayed in prison throughout his remaining years. Over time, his health began steadily deteriorating. Despite multiple pleas for clemency on his behalf, nothing ever materialized to help him, and he eventually went through hospice care while still in state custody. His issues were no doubt in part due to a language barrier, as he could neither read nor write in English.

Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda came to the United States seeking a better life. Unfortunately, he ended up spending more time incarcerated in North Carolina then living free here in the United States. On August 28, 2019, Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda passed away at 80 years of age. He had been locked up since he was 54 and never received either clemency nor compassionate release.

The tragic outcome in Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda’s story should be a clarion call to all of us that those who are still serving unfair sentences deserve immediate action and clemency and that no legalization measure that does not address those unfairly incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes is doing enough to undo the wrongs that prohibition cause.

For previous Ladybud articles about Pot POWs, click here.