While You’re Lighting Up on 4/20, I’m Serving Decades in Prison for Selling Weed

April 20, 2023, is the day for a lot of shoppers to have a good time hashish. Some will seize it as a possibility to get excessive and have enjoyable. Activists will push for legalization in states the place hashish consumption continues to be unlawful. Hashish dispensaries will promote the trade and its merchandise; and plenty of notable musicians will carry out at occasions, such because the Hashish Cup, the place they’ll pitch the gross sales up on behalf of the distributors who’ll be displaying off their most interesting marijuana merchandise to tens of hundreds of occasion goers.

As for me, I might be sitting in a twelve-by-ten jail cell within the hills of Alabama, away from civilization, wishing I used to be free, and fantasizing of a world stuffed with pleasure, laughter and love; and dreaming of a life I want I had, wherein the intimacy of my spouse would give me consolation, wherein my youngsters’s unconditional love would convey me happiness. However these are simply needs, fantasies, desires, ideas and psychological illusions to deceive my imprisoned soul.

Since 1998, after I was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Company and Houston Police, and later convicted and sentenced to 40 years in jail for conspiracy to promote and distribute hashish, I’ve tried to grasp the gravity of my punishment for a nonviolent hashish crime (basically when no weapons, cash, or medicine have been discovered on me), with out discovering a authentic reply.

They are saying a person isn’t speculated to cry (even beneath these dire circumstances). I steadily believed it — from the second I walked into the stomach of the beast — randomly strolling the jail corridors like a zombie, suppressing the painful emotions of remorse, disgrace and guilt, till sooner or later they determined to burst extensive open, prompting me to try to take my very own life. It didn’t occur, thank God. Ultimately I realized to play the playing cards, realized to cheat life from a confined frame of mind. I selected to outlive, going towards the voices telling me, “I simply wanna die!”

The previous twenty-four 4/20s spent behind bars have had their moments. Springs and summers have come and gone — like written songs that have been by no means sung. Christmases darkish and joyless. Birthdays awash with loneliness. Inflexible penal mechanisms and iron-fisted guidelines gnawing away at my dignity and self-worth.

By God’s grace I’m nonetheless standing in a turbulent, unstable ambiance the place a easy act of disrespect within the type of transferring somebody’s chair within the TV room, or strolling in entrance of somebody watching tv, with out saying “excuse me,” could cause you to get stabbed with a do-it-yourself knife (I witnessed it as soon as); in a spot the place the rebellion of gang politics, relying on which group you belong to, both the Crips, the Bloods, the Sureños, the Aryan Brotherhood, Paisas, gangster disciples, vice lords, and on and on, can check your braveness and tenacity to outlive — though I don’t belong to any of them; in an setting the place viral diseases plaguing jail cells and warehouse-looking dormitories, with incarcerated folks packed like sardines, respiratory the identical recycled air and sharing the identical laundered jail garments and blankets on a weekly foundation, can do you psychological and bodily hurt. COVID-19 has already gripped me greater than as soon as.

The one delicate, refreshing feeling I sit up for every morning is the daybreak’s mild streaming via the barred window in the back of my jail cell as I open my eyes to endure one other day in confinement. However even such refreshment quickly fades right into a discouraging feeling of melancholy, reminding me, “Edwin, you continue to have 10 extra years left to serve.”

If I have been to die at the moment, it’s painfully apparent nobody would bear in mind me apart from my household. Nobody would pay me any thoughts. Not the politicians and judges who’ve the facility to grant me reprieve. Not the hashish dispensaries who vaguely characterize these “left behind” (the hashish prisoners who’re nonetheless imprisoned for a product they’re now benefiting from). Not the musicians and celebrities pitching gross sales at hashish occasions. Not even the Waldos or the Grateful Lifeless.

It jogs my memory of a biblical passage from Psalm 142 I as soon as learn: “I search for somebody to return assist me, however nobody offers me a passing thought … nobody cares a little bit of what occurs to me. … All I can do is pray, ‘Lord, … hear my cry for I’m very low. … Convey me out of jail so I can thanks … for you deal with me kindly.’”

It additionally jogs my memory of some poetic traces I as soon as wrote:

I’m walled in and chained up — with out hope of escape

Branded with putrid savageness — numbered and not using a title

In my despair I stay silent — in my grief I stay damaged

Consolation has eluded me — freedom taken wing

I think about a life on reflection — a life splayed with love

a life stuffed with pleasure — a life stuffed with goal

A throe awakens me — my gullible thoughts has run its reel

My life solely a credulous phantasm — a fantasy a dream

A cesspool of opprobrium and rejection and failure

At this late stage of the sport, my bodily freedom appears farther than ever. As painful because it feels, I’ve to just accept the truth that I’m simply one other quantity misplaced within the stomach of the beast, an unredeemable monster within the eyes of my captors, too harmful to let loose. An invisible man, an unknown hero, who refused to surrender names of others within the unlawful hashish commerce; who bit the bullet for a product the USA celebrates at the moment.

And even when there’s a faint ember of hope omitted within the distance, for Households In opposition to Necessary Minimums, NORML [National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws], hashish activists, jail reform organizations, and others to collectively discover new, modern methods to demand the discharge of these harmed by the “conflict on medicine” — and never via letters of request to the White Home and Congress the place they’ll meet the identical destiny of shredded disappointment in a bureaucratic maze as occurred to my poor Mother and household again in 2016, close to the conclusion of the Obama administration, once they mailed 1000 private letters to 150 state representatives and 100 senators pleading their assist for my clemency petition, solely to obtain three letters in reply, saying, “We are able to’t assist. Discover different methods.” — such hope would simply get crushed beneath the premise that it has usually been stated, “the wheels of justice grind slowly” … however on this state of affairs they appear to have turned glacial, frozen, unable to show.

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