Stephanie Landa

Prison Day One: “Your life changes and will never be the same”

I went to prison for a sentence of 60 months. I never believed I was doing anything wrong by running a medicinal cannabis company. I had permission from San Francisco’s district attorney, the captain of narcotics and chief of police. 

Stay in the city and keep the cannabis medical, and we were golden. Or so we thought, until they busted us and turned us over to the feds. That was the end. We pleaded guilty to manufacturing medicinal marijuana tinctures. We’d get probation at worst, we thought. But no! 60 months for the three of us. Tom K. and I were allowed to stagger our sentences because I had a minor child. 

While waiting to serve my sentence, I took my case to the Supreme Court. They denied our writ of certiorari, so I entered prison in 2015 and was released in 2019. 

While in prison there was black mold in the kitchen that once a year before inspection would be painted. Then, through the year, the black mold would seep through the paint, Hence when I got out of prison, I had stage 4 cancer of the spleen, stomach, and liver. 

Don’t miss our 50 at 50 series: one current or former prisoner published a day until New Year’s Day 2022.

I almost died. Yes, prison can be a death sentence and has been for some. I am a cancer survivor, clean from that horrid disease for eight years and counting. 

From the first day you enter prison, your life changes and will never be the same — like the first time you are strip searched and told to bend over and spread your cheeks while you are dying inside from embarrassment – well I won’t digress into the horrible details, but it is life changing. 

I taught a class on social injustices focused on Chavez, Gandhi and King – how to live your life non violently. Many women said it had never occurred to them before.

I was the only one in my family to ever be arrested, so they had a hard time adjusting to their little girl being locked up. The last time my family experienced prison was in the gulag in Germany, and many of them were burned in the ovens. My family was very scared for my well being while I was locked up. 

I was scared, too. I could go on and on, but I will end my story with a glimpse into my life today. I founded a nonprofit called Freedomgrow.org. Our mission statement is to care for people who are locked up for cannabis. 

One way we help those imprisoned is to pump money into their commissary, which is really important in prison. Most people are shocked when we show them a commissary list. Prisoners have to pay for everything, from phone time to tennis shoes and even soap at inflated prices – often at double the price we would pay at, say, Target or another store. 

Everything costs money. Many people on our list are serving life sentences without parole! They have no money, so we help them. 

Giving back is powerful.

Stephanie Landa is the founder and current President of Freedom Grow Forever. You can view her full bio here. 

Stephanie Landa is the founder and current President of Freedom Grow Forever. You can view her full bio here. 

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