Marijuana Lifer Richard DeLisi Released from Prison

Marijuana smuggler Richard DeLisi is finally out of a Florida jail. Arrested with his brothers in 1988, he was released 32 years later on December 8 thanks in part to the Last Prisoner Project. DeLisi was supposed to remain at South Bay Correctional Facility until 2024.

Charged with trafficking in cannabis, conspiracy to traffic in cannabis and violation of the RICO Act, DeLisi received a 90-year sentence. Authorities claimed he smuggled more than 150,000 pounds of Colombian Gold to the U.S., raking in $50 million from 1975-1980. DeLisi was previously arrested in 1975 and spent a year in jail.

His older brother Ted also received a 90-year sentence, but was released on appeal in 2014. Richard wasn't.

Richard DeLisi in the ’70s and in prison in the 2010s. (Image via Last Prisoner Project)

According to Richard DeLisi's website, "Richard was approached by his old smuggling friend, J.J. White, who told Richard they could be wealthy again if they went back to smuggling cannabis... What Richard did not know was that his friend J.J. White was a paid confidential informant." 

Broke, DeLisi agreed to help and got caught, again. This time the Feds threw the book at him and his brother.

The DeLisi family moved from Brooklyn, NY to Florida in the '60s. By the '70s, the brothers were moving Jamaican ganja up the East Coast.

“We were selling this Jamaican weed,” Ted DeLisi told the Palm Beach Post in 2017. “But the people in New York kept telling us, ‘We want the Colombian weed.’ They called it cheeba cheeba.”

With a wholesale price of $35 a pound, they couldn't resist the lure of shipping cheap, high-grade Colombian cannabis to the U.S. The DeLisis bought boats and planes and amassed a fortune, grossing more than $50 million until they were caught.

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“There were so many times when they tried to get us to bring the other stuff, the coke and the heroin,” Richard said in 2017. “We would never do it because we knew it could kill people. I feel good about that still today.”

Ted added: “There was no violence. Nobody was ever shot or killed.”

But they still were given 90-year sentences each for marijuana. 

Upon his release, Richard said: "It's a really amazing feeling, but I knew it was a long time coming. It was a rought ride, I'll tell you that. It was rough time."


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.