PLAIN DEALING, LA — The Marshall Project has reported that Bernard Noble, a black man who was originally given more than 13 years in a Louisiana state prison for possessing two joints, was released last Thursday. Noble, now 51, was released from the Bossier Parish Medium Security Prison after serving 7 years for marijuana possession.
Noble was finally given his freedom and paroled after New York billionaire Daniel Loeb worked with Noble's attorney, Jee Park, and Innocence Project New Orleans to pressure Governor Bobby Jindal, the district attorney, and the Louisiana Supreme Court to give him clemency.
Elnora Noble was one of the most committed advocates and started a petition on Change.org to free her son, gathering more than 75,000 signatures in the process. As marijuana became legal in several states, Nobel's sentence seemed even more unjust, prompting Loeb and the Innocence Project to act on his behalf. A campaign was also born on Twitter called #freenoble.
Noble Was Convicted Under Habitual-Offender Law
Because Noble had previously been arrested 3 times for minor marijuana and cocaine possession, the district attorney's office charged Nobel as a fourth-time offender and attempted to have him sentenced as a habitual-offender, meaning he would serve at least two-thirds of a 20-year sentence. Convicted in 2011, Noble was arrested in New Orleans after being frisked when he was stopped while riding his bicycle in 2010. Police found less than 3 grams of marijuana during the search.
Noble told NewsOne that the system's punishment of people who look like him is too harsh, adding that he had never been to prison or harmed anyone, yet the system still treated him as a dangerous threat. Racial discrimination is predominant in marijuana arrests. The ACLU reports that black people are more than 3 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
Marijuana advocates argue that marijuana legalization could combat racial discrimination and end mass incarceration. Gubernatorial candidate for the state of New York, Cynthia Nixon, agrees and says that marijuana is legal for Caucasians and illegal for everyone else, especially black people. Nixon has made marijuana legalization the foundation of her campaign and says that legalization is a social justice issue.
The debate regarding marijuana is gearing up as more states legalize the drug while it is still illegal on the federal level. Former House Speaker John Boehner joined the board of a marijuana company recently, prompting questions about people of color being jailed for simple marijuana possession as rich white men are permitted to greedily line their pockets by cultivating and distributing mass amounts of marijuana.
Noble Wants to Help Others Receive Justice
Now that he is free, Noble wants to help other people get justice by giving his voice to the criminal justice reform movement, telling The Advocate that he was going to take a stand. He also told NewsOne that although they could take away his freedom, the jailers couldn't put "shackles on my thoughts and my beliefs.” Noble says that he also plans to spend time with his 7 children, who are all now adults. He will be on parole for 5 months.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, who fought all attempts to reduce Noble's sentence, released a sour-grapes statement after the parole was granted, saying that he hopes that Mr. Noble has been able to resolve his drug problem and will now be a law-abiding citizen and refrain from more involvement with the criminal justice system. Cannizzaro is up for re-election in 2020.