Craig Cesal was serving a life sentence behind bars, without the possibility of parole, for a first-time nonviolent marijuana conspiracy offense.
On June 17, 2020, after 18 years in prison, Cesal was released to home confinement due to risks posed by COVID-19 on the federal prison population.
Cesal, 61, who suffers from diabetes and lung issues, had been approved for home confinement by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), then the warden at FCI Terre Haute blocked the order, sending shock and disappointment to his family and advocates.
“Craig’s army of supporters flew into action and made countless calls and sent tons of emails to prison and justice department officials, including a concerted effort of emails aimed at Attorney General William Barr,” said Cheri Sicard, cannabis chef and persistent supporter of pot prisoners.
Finally, it happened.
“I feel like I’m in some surreal, alternative reality. I just look over and there he is!” Craig’s daughter Lauren Cesal, 32, told the Weed Blog. “I never thought it would actually happen. After so many years of hoping and being let down. So looking at him sitting on my couch, I feel like I’m dreaming.”
Who is Craig Cesal?
Cesal, a Chicago native, had a fairly normal family life. He went to university, got married, and had two children. He started a successful truck repair business in Lakeland, Florida and operated it for 20 years. His clients included a large fleet of refrigerated vehicles, inside of which the insulated walls were usually torn apart.
Though it was obvious to Cesal that the trucks were being used to smuggle some sort of contraband, he wasn’t sure what it was and did not think it was his business to ask or say anything, he told Civilized Life in an interview.
It turns out the trucks were actually smuggling tons of marijuana, hence the conspiracy to distribute charges against Cesal.
“The government never claimed that I bought, sold, or even used marijuana, but rather my business repaired semi-trucks for a company that trafficked marijuana,” Cesal himself wrote in the Daily Caller in August 2019. “I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, as I didn’t do anything with marijuana.”
While the gross miscarriage of justice has not been remedied by home confinement, at least Cesal can spend days with his family.
Sadly, other pot prisoners have not been so fortunate.
John Knock, also a first time, non-violent offender serving two life sentences, had his motion for compassionate release denied on June 10, 2020.
Knock, 72, has been in prison for nearly 25 years.
Knock’s sister Beth Curtis, has worked tirelessly for her brother’s release, as well as other prisoners for the past two decades.
“John has been incarcerated since 1996 and has never had an incident report,” Curtis said following the news that her brother’s motion was denied. Curtis founded the website lifeforpot.com.
One of Knock’s attorneys, David Holland, told The Weed Blog that he intends to continue to “do what I can for Knock. I may attempt another clemency petition for him…this time to Trump.”
Meanwhile, we celebrate Craig Cesal and “one more pot lifer home thanks to so many,” said Amy Povah of CANDO Foundation.
“If it takes a pandemic to bring people home so be it,” Povah said.