Edwin Rubis has a hard time nailing down his feelings about the U.S. cannabis legalization movement.
On the one hand, seeing public opinion shift so dramatically regarding cannabis in the nearly two decades he’s been locked up “gives [him] hope.”
On the other hand, he’s still facing another 21 years in prison for a nonviolent cannabis offense – and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon.
Rubis was sentenced to 40 years – also known as a de facto life sentence – in Houston, Texas in 1998 for conspiring to possess and distribute marijuana.
Today, the 48-year-old father of three spends a lot of time consuming news from the outside.
“[The legalization movement] says a lot to me. It says a lot to a lot of us,” Rubis told Civilized over a 15-minute phone-call from the federal prison in Talladega, Alabama.
"It gives us hope...but at the same time we’re going, ‘wait a minute.’ The months and years keep going by and we’re still here.”
The ‘we’ Rubis is referring to is the uncounted ‘marijuana lifers’ stuck in U.S. prisons for nonviolent cannabis crimes.
While prisoners like Rubis do have some advocates on the outside – namely Cheri Sicard, founder of the Marijuana Lifer Project – it’s safe to say clemency doesn’t take up much (if any) space on most cannabis activism platforms; largely, Rubis believes, because people aren’t even aware that you can get a life sentence for a nonviolent cannabis offense.
“People are always surprised when I tell them I’m serving [life] for marijuana... now that it’s being legalized all over the States and looked at as more of a medicine all over the world,” said Rubis.
“Awareness is key [because] people don’t really know we’re in here... We have different activists standing up for legalization, but at the same time they’re not speaking up for those in confinement. We need a voice to speak up for us out there.”
Needless to say, maintaining hope that the American people will stand up and demand change from their justice system is a tall order. But Rubis has faith.
“We’ve been hopeful [in the past] that the [justice system] would go down a route of clemency or compassion... but it’s 2017 now. All these states are legalizing, all these banks are trying to figure out a proper [financial] system for the cannabis industry, but what about us?”
“[We’re asking activists] to remember us, to remember that we’re here... If we’re speaking up for legalization, let’s also speak up for those in prison.”