Longform

Meet the Americans Serving Life in Jail for Weed

Finishing off the end of a joint, the DeLisi brothers slid into a 7-Eleven parking lot just off Sample Road in Pompano Beach. It was the end of 1974, and they were ages 30 and 38, full of New York swagger, and feeling invincible. Tucked into the yellow 1965 Porsche's passenger seat was Teddy, a sweetheart who looked like a mix of Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison. Turning off the ignition was Richie, a streetwise guy with a criminal mind who often bossed his brother around, despite being almost a decade younger and an inch shorter.

Inside the 7-Eleven, the two cotton-mouthed hustlers fished two Cokes from the store's back cooler before heading to the counter. Drag racers as kids and auto mechanics as adults, they were primed to always look at anything car-related. As they checked out, Richie set his sights on an auto-trade magazine resting near the register. Bleary-eyed, he asked his brother what the text on the front was advertising. A dyslexic who couldn't sit still inside a classroom, Richie had never learned to read or write. When he found out it was a coffee plantation in rural Colombia for sale, the man, decked out in his trademark suede jacket and faded dungarees, positively lit up.

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.