America’s Longest-Serving Marijuana Prisoner Released After 39 Years
Antonio Bascaro is now 84-years-old, and the former military pilot is free after serving the longest pot smuggling sentence in US history.
Published on May 10, 2019

In the middle of Miami’s drug-running heyday, Antonio Bascaro made waves helping to smuggle thousands of kilos of cannabis from Colombia to the shores of South Florida. Now, nearly 40 years later, Bascaro has been released from a federal prison cell, after being America’s longest serving non-violent marijuana criminal.

According to a deep dive from BBC Mundo reporter Lioman Lima, Bascaro served 39 years behind bars. He entered prison in 1980 on a conspiracy charge that put Bascaro at the center of a criminal organization accused of transporting some 600,000 pounds of South American pot into the U.S. Facing a prison term of 60 years, Bascaro refused to rat out his fellow smugglers, and felt the full wrath of weed’s Schedule I status.

"I refused to cooperate because my moral values and ethics, as well as my military training, kept me from using someone else or from testifying against another person to solve my problems,” Bascaro, who served as a pilot fighting against Fidel Castro’s revolution in the Cuban military before joining the smuggling trade, told BBC Mundo. "No one forced me to join the conspiracy. That is why I did not cooperate or try to use anyone else to save my neck."

This month, the man held on America’s longest cannabis bid was released on good behavior. But even with 21 years commuted off of his sentence, Bascaro now faces an equally uncertain future, with no U.S. citizenship and no place to truly call home.

"But where to?" Antonio’s daughter, Myra Bascaro, told BBC Mundo. "To Cuba where he could get arrested again for having fought against Fidel Castro? To Guatemala where he met my mother but where he has nothing and nobody... the country that deported him to the United States almost 40 years ago?"

For now, though, Bascaro is living with his family for the first time in nearly four decades, and readjusting to life on the outside. And with cannabis law reform continuing to sweep across the nation, it appears safe to say that Bascaro’s horrendous prison term record will not be topped. 

For more on Bascaro, read our interview with the prohibition victim here.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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