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Life Without Parole for Pot? 10 Worst Cases of Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Our government spends more than $7 billion annually to enforce marijuana prohibition in shockingly cruel ways, but the efforts have not deterred marijuana use.

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In Oklahoma City, Leland James Dodd was given two life sentences, plus ten years, for buying fifty pounds of marijuana from undercover officers in a "reverse sting." Oklahoma is not alone in handing out life sentences for buying marijuana from the government. In Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, William Stephen Bonner, a truck driver, was sent away for life without possibility of parole after state narcotics agents delivered forty pounds of marijuana to his bedroom. Raymond Pope, a resident of Georgia, was lured to Baldwin County, Alabama, in 1990 with promises of cheap marijuana; he bought twenty-seven pounds from local sheriffs in a reverse sting, was convicted, and was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. Pope's criminal record consisted of prior convictions for stealing televisions and bedspreads from Georgia motels. He is now imprisoned 400 miles from his family. He has three young children.

The consequences of a marijuana arrest can be shockingly cruel, and they go well beyond those mentioned in this brief list.  Many employers fire people instantly for a drug arrest, even if it is only for a tiny amount of pot. Nonviolent marijuana users are caged alongside dangerous felons in facilities where rape and abuse are rampant.
 
And while the consequences of our war on pot are multifaceted, less can be said for its achievements. The government spends more than $7 billion annually to enforce marijuana prohibition, but has not successfully deterred marijuana use. In fact, more teens now smoke pot than cigarettes, but our relentless pursuit to punish marijuana users nonetheless continues apace.

Kristen Gwynne covers drugs at AlterNet. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology.