This holiday season, we’re all feeling a bit more vulnerable than previous years. With everything we’ve gone through in 2020, now’s the time to give back to those who may not be as fortunate as you. Often, during this time of year, those in prisons are left forgotten, unable to enjoy this seasonable time like everybody else. This year, why not do something to change that?
Despite so many states thriving off of cannabis sales, and white communities benefiting off of local dispensaries, we cannot ignore those left in prison for enjoying the same plant. Below, we’re talking about some of the few ways you can help support cannabis prisoners during the holidays, showing the justice system that we’re not putting up with this unjust behavior any longer.
The Disparities Behind Cannabis Convictions
In the United States, our prisons are overwhelmingly filled with prisoners convicted of cannabis-related crimes. Even as state after state legalizes cannabis either medically or recreationally, these offenders are left in prison, their reputations tarnished over a few grams of marijuana. The majority of those arrested for cannabis possession are non-white males, specifcally Black men. This disparity traces all the way back to some of the first days that recreational cannabis was brought to the US.
Back in the early 1900s, citizens of Mexico began fleeing to the US during the midst of the Mexican Revolution. As they sought freedom and a new life, they also brought the idea of recreational cannabis use. For those in the US in the 20th century, this concept was new-- and it was not embraced.
Almost immediately, the idea behind Reefer Madness was born, and, suddenly, it was POC who brought it with them.
While this was incorrect in so many different ways, this racist ideology stuck for decades. Year after year, Black and Mexican Americans have been disproportionately targeted for cannabis crimes, while white citizens continue to go largely unpunished. Today, we’re working hard to erase the stigmas that were created so long ago, but ideologies such as these are deeply rooted. That’s why just talking about the issue this holiday season simply isn’t enough.
Contacting Local Officials
As the time of giving quickly approaches, it’s time to give your loved ones a call… and maybe your not-so-loved ones, too. Contacting your local officials and demanding adequate treatment of prisoners--especially during a global pandemic--can go a long way. Right now, COVID-19 cases are spiking horrifically within prisons across the country, as prisoners are being left to their own devices in such confined, unsanitary conditions. Let your local law enforcement officials know that they’re being scrutinized, and that their actions go directly against what they were hired to do: protect the public.
This also creates a wonderful opportunity to fight for the rights of individuals who have been wrongly incarcerated. Even today, families are still being torn apart over a few grams of weed regardless of legality; now’s the time to remind officials that we didn’t forget about these lives. Find the right phone numbers and emails to contact your state Governor or DOC and demand justice this holiday season. The best gift any cannabis prisoner can get, other than freedom, is support.
If you don’t feel comfortable contacting law enforcement directly, you can always make direct donations to those who need it most. Both because of the pandemic as well as racial-related protests in 2020, a myriad of bail funds and organizations have been crafted specifically to help those who have been unjustly affected.
Programs like the Last Prisoner Project are focusing specifically on those who have been incarcerated for low-level cannabis crimes that aren’t even illegal in most states nowadays. This program uses their earnings to not only pay for bail funds, but to help ensure that those who are released from prison for marijuana crimes have adequate support following incarceration.
Donations like these can go so far as to truly change the life of a former cannabis prisoner. Whether you’re helping them get out of prison, find housing upon release, or just help pay for food that day, a few dollars can go a long way. During this holiday season, save your change for programs that help those who think they may have been forgotten about.
One of the biggest ways you can help support cannabis prisoners during the holidays is by raising awareness. Unfortunately, in states where cannabis is legal, many do not realize the unjust effects that Black communities still face. This cannot go ignored. It is uncomfortable, but, as you’re buying your legal weed from your local dispensary, it’s important to remember those who are still in prison for doing just what you are.
Remind your friends and family, shop from Black-owned dispensaries, and dedicate your social media platforms to sharing the voices of those who need it. Cannabis crimes are so often swept under the rug nowadays, especially as legalization continues to thrive, so make sure to keep the conversation going. This must continue to be talked about until all minor cannabis convictions have been expunged and the country has acknowledged its racially-driven wrongdoings.
Doing What You Can
No matter what, it’s just important to do what you can for these cannabis prisoners. As we’ve stressed throughout this whole article, these are convictions that have long been swept under the rug, with most of these offenses not even punishable by law currently. Whether you’re spreading awareness on your Instagram, donating a few extra bucks to a local organization, or calling your local officials every day until they answer, just do what you can.
In a time where the cannabis plant is being so widely celebrated, infused into our foods, beverages, and even cosmetics, we must remember those who have paid so unjustly. Just because you can smoke a joint care-free in your house does not mean that everyone has that privilege or even that comfortability. Take the time to recognize your privileges and support local cannabis prisoners in any way possible. This 2020 holiday season, they need help more than you think.