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Bernard's case featured in VICE

More than half of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal in the United States, according to a Gallup poll from October 2015. With 58 percent in favor, legalization is enjoying the highest support ever reported (up from 34 percent in 2001). Still, draconian sentencing laws surrounding marijuana have led to the imprisonment of millions of American citizens, many of whom are still serving time for possessing small amounts of weed for personal use.

One of those citizens is Bernard Noble, a father and aspiring restaurateur from New Orleans who was stopped by police and nabbed for possession of two joints in 2010. In keeping with Louisiana’s habitual offenders law, Noble, who had two prior cocaine possession charges and a prior marijuana possession charge (he admits that he was a coke addict in the 90s), was sentenced to a staggering 13 and 1/3 years in prison for simple marijuana possession, a nonviolent offense.

In tracing Noble’s story for this week’s episode of Weediquette on VICELAND, I saw how a system of justice that’s discriminatory to African-Americans at the moment of arrest, overly aggressive in its prosecution, and inhumane and profit-driven in its practices of incarceration can result in truly illogical outcomes.

People are getting rich from legal weed in Colorado, a development that’s spurring business and generating tax revenue (and a topic that I’ll be exploring in future episodes), but in states like Louisiana, weed is still a tool of the incestuous political economic machine of mass incarceration.

For Noble, there’s some hope. Louisiana has a new governor who might be more inclined to grant him clemency. If you watch this piece and think Noble has done enough time in prison, please consider using the hashtag #freebernardnoble, and dropping Governor John Bel Edwards a line. He can be reached by phone at 866-366-1121 or via email here.

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