Legalization of cannabis is sweeping the globe. One in every three Americans currently lives in a state where the plant is legal, and the plant has been legalized or decriminalized in dozens of nations across the world. Purchasing an ounce, edible, or toke in public is now easier and safer than ever.
However, hundreds of individuals incarcerated for cannabis are being left behind in this green wave. Despite the fact that marijuana is totally legal in 19 states, the United States continues to imprison people for minor cannabis offenses.
America’s Cannabis Arrests
It’s no secret that America has an imprisonment problem: the US tops the globe in both overall prison population and percentage of the population jailed. And one of the major accusations is cannabis.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed in 2010 that 52% of drug arrests were for cannabis-related offenses, amounting to an astounding 8.2 million arrests between 2001 and 2010. According to the data, officers detained someone for cannabis every 37 seconds on average.
According to an updated study from 2018, cannabis arrests accounted for 43% of drug charges, although 6.1 million arrests were recorded between 2010 and 2018. They also discovered that cannabis charges were not decreasing – 100,000 more individuals were arrested for cannabis in 2018.
Legalization by State is Insufficient
Legalization isn’t enough to put an end to cannabis arrests. The ACLU discovered an increase in cannabis arrests between 2010 and 2018 in places where cannabis is still prohibited or restricted. There’s also the unspoken fact that the drug war has always been a battle on minorities. Black persons in the United States are at least three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis offenses, a ratio that varies and frequently rises depending on the state.
A cannabis charge has the potential to destroy lives. Some people are “fortunate” enough to get away with a misdemeanor that carries a year in jail, but they may end up drowning in legal bills and fines owing to the government. And if you’ve been charged with a crime, you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to getting work or a place to live. A cannabis offense may even revoke your ability to vote, either temporarily or permanently, in 27 states.
All of this is contingent on your ability to remain out of prison. The United States also has an astoundingly high recidivism rate, which is the rate at which people return to jail. Due to a lack of assistance for those who have been freed, two out of every three parolees are arrested again within three years, and 50% are arrested again within five years.
All of this portrays a dismal picture for anyone arrested for cannabis possession. And, at an era when 37 states have medicinal cannabis programs and 19 states and Washington DC have completely legalized cannabis, no one should be imprisoned for a plant that generates millions of dollars.
The Last Prisoner Project
These figures should astound you, but they should not make you despair: there are measures you can take right now to assist those imprisoned on cannabis crimes.
The Last Prisoner Project is a nationwide non-profit organization created by cannabis activists and brothers Steve and Andrew DeAngelo with the goal of liberating every individual imprisoned for cannabis. The organization’s mission is to “stop America’s discriminatory and fruitless cannabis criminalization policy, as well as heal the harms caused by this unfair and unsuccessful battle.”
The aim of the Last Prisoner Project is divided into three parts: assistance, release, and reintegration. The organization assists individuals at every stage of the road by providing:
- Support when incarcerated,
- Clemency assistance, compassionate release, and resentencing programs
- Reentry assistance for those who have been discharged
6 Ways to get Engaged Right Now
The Last Prisoner Project connects convicts with pro bono counsel, writes letters of support, assists in the creation of record expungement laws, and gives financial assistance to those who are freed. The organization works relentlessly to bring people justice – and you can assist.
- Make a letter: The Last Prisoner Project maintains a list of individuals who are now incarcerated. These people face decades in prison, isolated off from the rest of the world. You may reach out to someone and write them a letter using the LPP standards to let them know they are not forgotten and are being fought for. It’s a simple approach to make a difference in the life of someone who is jailed.
- Take some action: When there is a potential for a particular prisoner to be released, the LPP urges you to take action. Calling or contacting political officials and district attorneys, as well as sharing information to raise awareness, are examples of action items.
- Please sign the petition: The LPP has developed a step-by-step strategy for the federal government to award mercy to the thousands of persons imprisoned on cannabis-related offenses.
- Donate: The LPP provides financial assistance to both detained and liberated people through commissary monies, pro bono attorneys, and grants. A gift of any size helps these funds (and they accept cryptocurrency.)
- Contribute to a dispensary: LPP’s Roll It Up for Justice initiative, in which dispensaries around the country participate, directs all donations to clemency programs. Locate a local dispensary and make a gift the next time you visit.
- Purchase from LPP-affiliated merchants: Partners for Freedom are companies that have joined the LPP cause and are assisting them in their endeavors.
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