In 2007, Ferrell Scott was sentenced to life in prison, without parole, for possessing and conspiring to sell marijuana. Scott had no priors and has had perfect prison conduct. Yet when he appealed to President Obama for clemency, he was denied.
The father of three was beside himself when he received the news, said Amy Povah, Director of CAN-DO, a non-profit foundation that advocates for non-violent drug offenders and executive clemency.
Convinced it had to be a mistake, reported the Washington Post, Ferrell called family members and asked them to double check the Justice Department’s website, where the list of commutations denied by President Obama is long, long, long.
And Scott’s name is still on it.
“I’m going to be here for the rest of my life,” Scott told a family member. “I don’t know, man, I’m so depressed and shaken. I honestly thought I would get it.”
Of course he thought he was going to get it. Ferrell Scott was asking for parole for using a plant that more than half the country is now permitted to legally use in some fashion and which Obama himself has admitted to using long before pot legalization became so widespread.
To be fair, Obama has commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 non-violent federal drug offenders to date, surpassing the previous 11 presidents combined.
And, Obama recently said in an interview with Rolling Stone that marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.
So why didn’t the president commute the sentence of a 54-year-old grandfather of four young children who has already served 10 years?
Although the clemency list has Obama’s name on it, the Washington Post explained that he does not personally look at each petition. Rather, he is advised by the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney and White House counsel. Sometimes, the pardons office seeks input from the prosecutor involved in the initial trial.
“It’s not like everyone sits down and decides together. It’s a bunch of different people in different offices, they all have different perspectives. Even a minor failure at any of those steps and everything grinds to a halt,” said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and leading advocate for “sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity.”
Some quick facts from the Drug Policy Alliance:
The number of arrests in 2015 in the U.S. for drug law violations was 1.5 million, of which 84 percent were for possession only.
The number of people arrested for a pot violations in 2015 was 643,121, of which 89 percent were for possession only.
The War on Drugs continues to rage.
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