This 38-Year-Old Man Will Spend Life in Prison Over 1.5 Ounces of Marijuana

Reminder: People are still sentenced to life in prison for marijuana possession. With so many states choosing to legalize marijuana, it’s easy to forget how draconian the penalties for possession can still be. Case in point: The Mississippi Court of Appeals just upheld a life sentence for 38-year-old Allen Russell for being in possession of about one and a half ounces of the drug.

Russell was sentenced in 2019, after being convicted for having 1.55 ounces (or about 44 grams) of marijuana. On appeal, Russell’s lawyers argued that his life sentence amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment and is grossly disproportionate.”

In general, “possession of between 30 and 250 grams is a felony punishable by a maximum of 3 years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $3,000” in Mississippi, according to the drug policy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

But this sentence can increase drastically if a person has previous felony convictions.

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Federal Bump Stock Ban Blocked by Divided Appeals Court

The federal ban on bump stocks—devices that increase the rate of fire for semiautomatic weapons—is likely unlawful and must be put on hold, a divided Sixth Circuit said Thursday.

Bump stocks harness a gun’s recoil energy to rapidly move the firearm back and forth, bumping the shooter’s stationary finger against the trigger. In the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, in which a gunman using semiautomatic rifles with bump stocks killed 58 people, President Donald Trump ordered the Justice Department to quickly ban “all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.”

Federal law generally bans civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 1986, including any parts used to convert an otherwise legal firearm into an illegal machine gun. It defines a machine gun as a weapon which fires “automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a rule reinterpreting the terms “single function of the trigger” and “automatically” to ban bump stocks.

The group Gun Owners of America and others sued, claiming the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, and the 14th Amendment’s right to due process.

A lower court should have granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction against the rule, because they’ll likely be able to prove that the bump stock ban is unlawful, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said.

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