HARRISONVILLE, Mo. — History was made in Cass County Thursday morning when a judge started the process to release a Missouri prisoner because of the state’s new recreational marijuana amendment, which includes expungement for marijuana possession offenses.
Adam Mace has been in prison for the last 14 years on two different offenses. The first 11 years were for a deadly DUI that Mace was responsible for, but the last three have been only for a marijuana possession charge he got the day before that DUI.
That makes him eligible for release now that the Missouri amendment legalizing recreational marijuana allows people locked up for possession charges to petition for their release, which is exactly what a Cass County judge did Thursday.
“It’s a great victory today for everybody, everybody in the cannabis community,” said Mace, when he called his supporters after the hearing and learned his expungement was granted.
“They were awesome for me, for Justin, and everybody standing there behind you.”
Mace’s attorney, Justin Ortiz, says the process to start his release can begin Thursday, and he expects him to be out in the next few days.
“The specific [order] that’s being sent to Missouri Department of Corrections is to expunge that case, treat is as if it never happened, and release [Mace] immediately,” said Ortiz.
Since Mace’s case is more complicated than most because of the unrelated DUI, the hope is that since this petition was successful, other cases have a path to also releasing people locked up on marijuana charges.
“This is a crime that can carry up to seven years of imprisonment and the Missouri medical marijuana laws didn’t go into effect until 2018, so we’re not that far out,” said Ortiz.
Christina Frommer founded the Canna Convict Project when Missouri legalized medical marijuana, helping address legal issues for people that predate that law.
“This should absolutely give hope to everybody,” said Frommer. “There were a few questions that we had if this was going to be granted because of the confusing language in the amendment so I’m glad they took everything at face value, didn’t over complicate it, and they were successful.”
Ortiz said filing the first petition in the state created its own challenges because there were ambiguous parts of the amendment which hadn’t been worked out in court yet. On top of that, the judge pointed out that he and other judges are bound to what the law says, regardless of what their person feelings about the amendment and expungement might be.
“This is the will of the people and the words contained in that amendment are what everybody in every county has to abide by whether you’re a citizen, a police officer, prosecutor, defense attorney, or a judge,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz previously told FOX4 Mace’s possession charge was prosecuted under stricter guidelines because it happened in the mid-2000’s. Since then, laws around cannabis have been relaxed.
FOX4 was in the courtroom when the judge made his decision and will have more on this case and hear from Mace’s supporters during evening newscasts.
Canna Convict Project has started a GoFundMe to raise money for when Adam is released.