Justice for all
When we talk of restorative justice, we are usually referring to ways of repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior, a victim meeting an offender, for example. But restorative justice can also apply to victims of unjust, unfair, and immoral laws. Laws both created and executed for political gain rather than to protect society.
The war on drugs and the prohibition of cannabis falls under this category. For decades, US citizens were told that cannabis is dangerous, cannabis is a killer, cannabis users need to be locked up…and for no good reason other than political gain or distraction from political failures.
The many years since the 1920s and 30s (the beginning of official prohibition) have seen countless men and women, some barely older than children, taken from their families and locked up. Many died in prison, still more suffered immeasurable damage as they struggled after decades behind bars. The ‘war’ was never on drugs, it was on people. It was on racial minorities, young liberals and anti-war activists.
Unfortunately, when we look around the world, be it the first world or the third, America still leads the way in per capita imprisonment of its citizens – seven times higher than communist China. Not all US prisoners are in jail for drug-related crimes, of course, but as of the 1st August 2020, it was almost 50%.
America is seen as a different place these days, a safer place for those who wish to do nothing more than grow, cultivate, pack a bowl or research the massively untapped potential of medicinal cannabis.
But, for millions of Americans, this post-prohibition paradise is beyond their reach.
Many states still refuse to end prohibition, and over 40,000 US citizens sit languishing in cells all across America, serving barbaric sentences for crimes that simply no longer exist.
“Imagine sitting in a cell for years, decades, or even for life, convicted of an activity that is no longer a crime, while thousands of other people build intergenerational wealth doing exactly the same thing.” Steve DeAngelo writing for the Last Prisoner Project.
While this huge injustice has been largely ignored, while new and old generations simply march on, taking advantage of the greener grass and making huge profits in the process, Steve DeAngelo refuses to let it go.
His Last Prisoner Project is ‘a nonprofit coalition of cannabis industry leaders, executives, and artists dedicated to bringing restorative justice to the cannabis industry.’ It is an organization committed to giving freedom back to countless individuals in the US and around the world. Those who profit from the cannabis industry have a moral obligation to help rebuild the lives of those still impacted by prohibition. There should be no rest until the last prisoner has been released.
Black Lives Matter
It’s a fact lost neither on Steve nor the LPP that the prosecution of antiquated drug laws targets black and ethnic minorities with unquestionable prejudice. Cannabis laws and drug laws, in general, have too often been used for persecution, not protection.
‘At the same time that wealthy, white Americans are profiting off of the legal marijuana industry, the criminalization of cannabis is simultaneously being used as a pretext to harass people of color, and in many cases, to kill them.’ Soo Bin Ahn writing for the Last Prisoner Project.
These issues have been thrown into sharp relief by COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, with the BLM especially relevant to prohibition. Unfortunately, while participation in this movement is within reach of most of us, those incarcerated have no means by which to get involved. For those imprisoned by the war on drugs, this seems like injustice piled upon injustice.
Equality and justice are at the core of both the Black Lives Matter and Last Prisoner Project movements; to believe in one is to believe in the other. The LPP website has some interesting articles and blogs that explore, both directly and indirectly, the parallels between the two movements, the power of cooperation, and the opportunities for reform.
Please continue to check Steve’s page for all news and updates regarding the Last Prisoner Project. If you would like to make a donation, volunteer, or help in any way, please follow one of the useful links below.