Man in prison for marijuana conviction fights for release now that cannabis is legal in NJ
A Cape May family is fighting for justice while one of their loved ones remains behind bars for a marijuana conviction.
Humberto Ramirez’s sentence came after the decriminalization of adult-use marijuana in New Jersey. He remains in jail after an objection from a judge slowed the possibility of a shorter sentence.
“I came home from working a second job to a nice, cooked dinner. ‘Berto and our daughter Lily – typically he cooks, I clean. He said he was going to take a ride and I said, ‘See you later,” says Ramirez’s wife Brooke Popplewell.
During that ride, Ramirez was pulled over and later arrested for marijuana possession. This was in February 2019.
“They did not have a search warrant for the car. It actually took a little over two days to obtain that. When they finally received the search warrant, they called and said, ‘You can come pick up your car,’” Popplewell says. “At that time, we knew what the meant, he wasn’t coming home.”
Ramirez had six pounds of marijuana in a garbage back in the trunk of his car – a second-degree crime. Ramirez was on his way to prison for marijuana for a third time – this time for seven years, with a two-year minimum.
“I did not say that ‘Berto did not commit a crime. I believe there should be repercussions to anyone who breaks the law,” says Popplewell. “However, I think you need to look at the crime at hand. Nonviolent cannabis should be more of a fine or house arrest or drug court.”
Last year, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General issued a directive revising statewide guidelines concerning the waiver of mandatory minimum sentences in nonviolent drug cases. The intention was to ease sentences, including retroactively.
“The judge that these cases went in front of, she felt that the attorney general did not have the right to create this directive and this directive was created because of the disparities in the sentences that individuals were receiving and how the sentences especially affected people of color,” says Kathleen Redpath-Perez, an attorney with the Law Offices of Eric A. Shore.
The attorney general’s directive means hundreds of inmates could become eligible for parole.
“Please urge the prosecutor to do what’s right and sign this paperwork so we can get him home,” says Popplewell.
News 12 New Jersey has reached out to the prosecutor in Ramirez’s case, but did not hear back.