Thousands of individuals are incarcerated for cannabis crimes – meanwhile, cannabis is being increasingly accepted nationwide, in medical or recreational capacities, and sometimes both.
While this is disturbing, there are people and organizations trying to right this wrong. Efforts from Mission Green and the fervent motivation by people like Weldon Angelos, who himself spent time in prison for a nonviolent cannabis crime, is not only needed, but applauded. Without their help, individuals like Ismael Lira may end up in prison for the rest of their lives for a nonviolent crime, for a plant now widely accepted.
Verano partnered with Mission Green to help extend their reach of advocacy by getting the faces of individuals like Ismael in front of the cannabis community. Seeing the faces and knowing their stories is incredibly important for us to know how the war on cannabis has affected so many. Here is Ismael’s story.
The Story of Ismael Lira
Ismael Lira was born and raised in Texas near Del Rio, where most of his family still resides. He grew up like any normal Texan kid in the 90’s and early 2000’s, and in his twenties, married Tina Mills. They were a fun-loving newlywed couple who spent time hanging out with friends and going to their favorite restaurants in the area.
However, in 2004 their lives would be turned upside down. The Lira’s would be stopped by police and detained on the side of the road for over 7 hours, at which point Tina was released and Ismael arrested, on counts related to marijuana, even though he was not in possession of cannabis himself.
Ismael didn’t know this at time of his arrest, but earlier that same day, another vehicle had been pulled over and searched. At this traffic stop, the driver of the vehicle stated that Ismael was the person who had instructed him to deliver the several pounds of cannabis found in the vehicle.
Feds Build a Case from Just a Name
From the time of his arrest to the start of the trial, the feds worked to build a case. In the span of 18 months, a single charge for 6 pounds of cannabis turned into a multi-person operation where hundreds of pounds of cannabis exchanged hands, with Ismael directly involved.
Initially, the feds tried to get Ismael’s co-defendants to testify against him, but they would not. Ismael was then offered a plea deal, but Tina would be charged as well. Ismael hated the idea of his wife spending time in prison, so he felt he had no choice but to take the case to trial.
The decision cost them more than just monetarily. Tina received 11 years in prison and, because of the Kingpin law, which carries a harsh minimum life sentence, Ismael would be convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
A Non-Violent Offender in Some of America’s Most Dangerous Prisons
Because of Ismael’s harsh sentencing, he found himself in prisons that held and still hold some of the most violent criminals ever. The first prison he served time was USP Beaumont, more commonly referred to as “Bloody Beaumont.”
“I got to see more violence than I ever saw on TV growing up as a kid,” Ismael told High Times of USP Beaumont.
Now, Ismael is serving his prison sentence over 1,000 miles away from friends and family in USP Terre Haute in Indiana. The maximum-security prison is home to some of the most violent criminals in the US and is home to all federal prisoners on death row.
While serving time at USP Terre Haute, Ismael saw the Trump administration reinstate the death penalty, leading to more death sentences conducted in his time in office than the previous 56 years of presidents.
Death sentences aren’t the only deaths at USP Terre Haute, though. In the past year alone, there have been several murders within the walls of the prison, leading many to question if the prisons are even able to keep inmates safe. This is where a nonviolent cannabis offender is held.
Ismael Has Faith That He Will Return to Society
Despite the traumatic events that happen around him, Ismael has not lost faith that he will be free one day despite his sentence of life without parole. He has kept his spirits up by continuing his education, and volunteering within the prison to help other inmates. To date, Ismael has completed over 74 re-entry programs, including the Life Connections Program, which is considered one of the most effective re-entry programs.
Ismael has completed over 1,000 hours of community service, and the prison staff have nothing but good things to say about him.
Tracy Joslyn is the Unit Team Counselor of the Life Connections Program. She shared with High Times that Ismael, “Exceeds expectations in his work and willingness to help others.”
She also said, “I believe Mr. Lira is deserving of a second chance, and that he is ready to rejoin society, and has a very low chance of reoffending.”
Help Mission Green and Ismael Lira
It’s time to act! Show your support for Ismael and others who have been wrongfully convicted of cannabis-related crimes by donating money, starting a letter writing campaign, and advocating on their behalf to ensure their voices are heard.
Here are some of the ways you can help Ismael and others today:
Donate to Mission Green
Cannabis prisoners face two main obstacles while incarcerated: clemency and commissary funds. The donations made to Mission Green help with both issues.
Clemency efforts are key; they fuel political campaigns on behalf of those wrongfully incarcerated, organize events designed solely towards generating more awareness about this injustice through outreach efforts like informational presentations, and meetings with officials who can help influence change for these individuals.
Commissary funds for clothing, food, and other basic items, too, are critical for prisoners. From the mouth of Weldon himself who spent 13 years behind bars, “Prisons only feed you enough to keep you alive, not full.”
Tell The Biden Administration You Support Cannabis Clemency
Pleading on behalf of those who are incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes is a powerful way to show your support. The best approach? the White House contact form. This form is the easiest way to make your voice heard. Be sure to fill out all required fields and leave a message of the impact of the War on Drugs.
Mission Green suggests adding that clemency for these individuals is not only just but would be good for public safety and the economy.
While the form is the easiest, it’s not the only way to contact the White House. Advocators can also contact them via email, phone, or mail and include why clemency for these individuals is so important.
Write to Ismael Lira
Ismael is currently being held in one of the most dangerous, maximum-security federal prisons in America. Let Ismael know you are thinking of him and that he has support throughout the cannabis community by personally writing him. To ensure he gets your letters, make sure to write on unlined white paper with blue or black ink and address to:
ISMAEL LIRA # 45946-180
USP TERRE HAUTE
P.O. BOX 33
TERRE HAUTE, IN 47808
Verano and Mission Green Team Up to Make an Impact
We at Verano are ardent supporters of Mission Green, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals incarcerated by the War on Drugs, and you can help. Learn more about how you can support Mission Green because together, we can make the cannabis industry a greener space.