My cannabis activism and herbal wellness journeys began in a surprising place-sitting in a field in Eastern Tennessee where I smoked cannabis for the first time. My teenage self had no clue that this experience would spark my life purpose: ending the prohibition of cannabis in the South and getting folks out of jail.
Everyone deserves access to this plant, y’all.
Why is this issue so urgent? Consider this:
- 663,367 people went to jail for cannabis in the US in 2018, 92% for possession alone.
That’s more than half a million families and millions more lives of mothers, fathers, siblings and countless children destroyed for accessing the same plant that has now been legalized for recreational or medical use in 44 states. Corporations are gaining billions of dollars in sales, while overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers of black and brown people sit in jail with excessive sentences, even life in prison for simply possessing this plant. According to the ACLU, this harm is amplified by a inherently racist justice system that arrests black folks at a rate of at least 4 times that of whites, even though they use cannabis at similar rates.
Although these wrongful and often racist arrests are happening in every state, we want to shine a light on the Southern states where prohibition is causing tremendous harm to communities. Here’s the breakdown by state of Southern Cannabis Arrests in 2016:
Looking at our home state of Tennessee, there were 21,220 cannabis arrests in 2016 – that’s disproportionately high for its population. Similarly, high rates of arrest in most Southern states have increased in recent years. See the full list by state from NORML HERE.
Over 138,000 Southerners went to jail for cannabis in 2016. Revenue for the cannabis industry during that same year was $6.7 billion. This is unacceptable and we need your help to make change NOW.
WANT TO JOIN US IN DEMANDING CANNABIS ACCESS FOR ALL? Here are 3 simple steps you can take TODAY to help!
- LOOK UP YOUR STATE HERE VIA MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT. Get to know the state of cannabis where you are and quickly take actions via tools like writing to your legislators. Familiarize yourself with pending legislation and tell your friends to do the same!
- TAKE ACTION HERE TO SUPPORT THE MORE ACT OF 2019. HR3884 is a bill that calls for federal decriminalization and de-scheduling of cannabis. This bill would allow states to make their own decisions regarding policy. Plus, its equity provisions and automatic expungement of certain offenses make it worthy of our support.
- IF YOU ARE PRIVILEGED AND ABLE, TALK ABOUT CANNABIS IN YOUR COMMUNITIES. Your voice is powerful and sharing your experience can normalize and de-stigmatize the perception of cannabis use in local communities. Simply sharing Drug Policy Alliance’s Drug War Statistics can be a powerful tool to change perspectives.
RESOURCES FOR A DEEPER DIVE
- Follow @drugpolicyalliance, @marijuanapolicyproject, @natlnorml, @safeaccess, @equityfirstalliance
- Presidential Candidates + Cannabis from Equity Org
- Pending Legislation by State – Marijuana Policy Project
- Drug War Facts by Common Sense for Drug Policy
- A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses by The ACLU