I don’t know if you can remember where you were or what was going on in your life 31 years ago. Most of us would have to stop and think about it. But Calvin Robinson remembers it well.
In 1988, Robinson was a tugboat captain on the Intrepid Adventure in the San Francisco Bay. In the spring of that year, under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, he was arrested for pulling a barge loaded with 43 tons of hashish and 15 tons of marijuana. At the time this was the largest marijuana arrest in U.S. history.
For Calvin Robinson, time stopped that day.
Crime and Punishment
When the dust settled after a drama-filled trial, Calvin Robinson received a sentence of life without parole for his involvement in the drug smuggling conspiracy. Calvin spent the next 34 years working, without any outside help, sending appeal after appeal to the courts. To no avail.
He watched murderers, rapists, and thieves come and go, all of them serving less time then he had been given for a non-violent marijuana offense.
From inside the walls of the federal penitentiary in Victorville, CA, Calvin watched the world change. The marijuana industry was booming. Laws were changing. Public stigma was slowly fading and people were beginning to understand that marijuana is not a harmful drug. The public could even go into a store and legally buy marijuana and hashish!
Yet Calvin remains behind bars.
In 2014, I saw a Facebook post about four men, all part of the same marijuana conspiracy, all serving life without parole sentences for marijuana: Calvin Robinson, John Knock, Claude Duboc, and Albert Madrid.
I decided to send them each a card to cheer them up and let them know they were not forgotten. At the time I had no idea how that one card would change my life, and how it would lead to an enduring and deeply meaningful friendship with Calvin Robinson.
I made a Facebook page for Calvin and asked him to send me a picture. That was when I saw the miracles start to happen.
Soon after I met writer and activist Cheri Sicard, and Calvin not only received more exposure, he found a new friend. Then, attorney Cait Boyce began to help. Then Tracie Gloor-Pike, whose son Lance Gloor’s incarceration for cannabis had turned into a prison activist, joined in.
Calvin was still incarcerated, but for the first time since he had been locked up, he knew he was not alone and he was not forgotten.
Calvin had been battling cancer for five years without medical treatment and it was spreading and getting worse. We started protesting and through a letter writing campaign were at least able to get him transferred to the prison hospital at Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina.
Sadly, it might be too little too late, as after having gone untreated for so many years, Calvin’s doctors at Butner predicted his cancer would take his life within 18 months. But if anyone believes in miracles, it is Calvin, whose rock-steady spiritual conviction and large stature earned him the prison nickname of “The Gentle Giant.”
The New Prison Reform Act
In 2016, President Trump passed the new First Step Act. Calvin meets the requirements because of his age, declining health, and the amount of time he had already served. He should have been first on the list for a reduction in sentence.
In reality, Calvin has been stonewalled by the prison system. Despite countless letters and pleas to prison staff, they have done everything in their power to keep Calvin from coming home.
Calvin and I have spoken many times. He knows that the fight for freedom is not just about him. It is about the stigma of marijuana and a judicial system that makes money off every marijuana arrest and conviction.
The bottom line is, Calvin, and every prisoner like him is worth at least $35,000 a year to the prison. They don’t want to lose that money.
There is some hope, however, as Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) just wrote Calvin to let him know that his new request for a reduction in sentence is currently in the DC office of the General Counsel. We pray the counsel does the right thing and quickly.
I don’t know what will ultimately happen to Calvin. Maybe he will die in prison. Maybe he will be released, although that would have to happen soon.
What I do know is that over the last five years I have been a first-hand witness to the incredible strength and resiliency of the human spirit and how that spirit can come alive and thrive when its flames are fanned with love.
In essence, at this stage of the game, Calvin’s story really isn’t about Calvin any more. It is about all of the activists and members of the public who have reached into prison to give the only real thing they own: their time, their love, and their concern. That and his unshakable faith in Yahvah is what has kept the Gentle Giant going, even through times of utmost adversity.
Write to Calvin Robinson
If you would like to send a letter of encouragement, please address it to:
Calvin Lyniol Robinson # 83327-011
PO Box 1600
Butner, NC 27509
Please note, BOP rules only allow for ink and paper in white (only) envelopes. No greeting cards, nothing can be stapled, attached, or glued to the letter, ink and white paper only. Photographs are OK.
Brad Schluter is an advocate and activist who remains committed to those serving prison time for marijuana.
Network in Paradise at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo
According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, the global legal cannabis market is expected to reach USD 66.3 billion by the end of 2025. Helped in part by the increasing acceptance of cannabis to treat numerous medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurological disorders, along with the lucrative revenue created by legal cannabis sales, there has never been a more crucial time for entrepreneurs and businesses to network and expand their businesses on a global scale.
As one of the leaders in international business-to-business (B2B) events, the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo brings together top cannabis industry experts from around the globe including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.
Taking place September 26-28 at the Montego Bay Convention Center, in beautiful Montego Bay, the fourth annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo features addresses, panel discussions and presentations on a variety of topics — from advocacy, cultivation, science and medicine to investment, banking and finance, and the business of cannabis including women entrepreneurship.
Over 70 world-class speakers and panelists will provide insights into the direction of the global cannabis industry to over 3,000 delegates.
Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harboride dispensary and the Last Prisoner Project, is speaking on two panels — “Post Decriminalization of Cannabis: Towards Restorative Justice” and “Strategic Approaches to Cannabis Investments” to how the investment landscape is evolving.
Bruce Linton, founder of Canopy Growth Corp, the first cannabis producing company in North America to be listed on a major stock exchange, will host a fireside chat with CanEx founder, Douglas K. Gordon.
Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, will host “The Global Cannabis Movement” that will explore what globalization means in practical terms for the industry, where things stand presently and the future of the global market.
Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis Inc., will be speaking on the panel “CEO Roundtable: Roadmap to Sustainable Profitability for the Industry” to discuss the global challenges and opportunities facing the cannabis Industry.
Plus, over 200 exhibitors and sponsors, from cultivators to investment firms and media experts will provide attendees opportunities for networking, business expansion and identify new areas of growth within the legal industry.
Held for the first time in 2016, CanEx Jamaica is responsible for connecting cannabis experts, researchers, business professionals, creating new strategic partnerships in a truly memorable and vibrant setting.
For more information, visit canexjamaica.com.
After 25 Years, Supreme Closes Iconic Lafayette Store
In a move that has shocked through the streetwear community, Supreme has closed its original space on Lafayette after 25 years of business.
Back in February, the brand announced that its famous Lafayette location would be under renovation. Now, due to the unforeseen closure, the 190 Bowery location in Manhattan will now be the brand’s main location in the Big Apple.
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Off the Record, It’s National Expungement Week
“Would you like to know an absolutely crazy fact? There are 77 million people in the United States who have a criminal record.” This crazy statistic that instantly grabs your attention is how Seth Rogen opens the PSA for National Expungement Week.
Rogen also asks, “What does ‘expungement’ mean?” ‘On the record’, expungement means, clearing or sealing the record of a person’s prior arrest, criminal charges or conviction.
That’s a possibility for some of the 77 million people with criminal records — a large amount being minor offenses — which make up nearly a quarter of the population of the United States. Having a criminal record seriously impedes the ability to live for millions of people. It restricts access to jobs, housing, education, and the right to vote.
Cage-Free Cannabis is rooted in three kinds of justice, from reparative, to economic and environmental. Equity First Alliance works to bring reparative justice to, and be a voice for, those who have been most harmed by the War on Drugs.
The initiative will see over 40 events held in 30 cities, which will host workshops, allowing people to meet with lawyers and experts who can help them clear records, from September 21-28.
Among other company’s and businesses, N.E.W. is supported by Houseplant, the cannabis company launched by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, in the hopes of exposing the social injustices associated with cannabis convictions.
With 18 events in 15 cities that helped nearly 300 people begin the process of changing their records, the inaugural National Expungement Week in 2018 was clearly a success and led to the initiative returning this year.
If you’re interested in clearing your record or helping someone else do the same, you can find further information — including the dates and details of specific events — on the official site of N.E.W.; offtherecord.us.
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