The Last Prisoner Project is encouraging US politicians to back the new Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE act).
The group of cannabis industry leaders, social justice advocates and policy experts are aiming to overturn the convictions of Americans currently serving time in prison for cannabis-related offences.
There are currently around 40,000 people in the US behind bars due to cannabis, with the project taking the stance that anyone in the industry who is looking to make a profit from the drug has a responsibility to help those who have been persecuted because of it.
The group has now launched the Demand MORE project, asking members of the public to write to their representative demanding they back the MORE act.
The landmark piece of legislation was passed on 4 December by a vote of 228 to 164 and is a huge step towards decriminalising cannabis in the country.
It does not make the drug legal, but does end the criminalisation of cannabis use, eliminating penalties for people who manufacture, distribute or possess the drug.
In an open letter to the House of Representatives, the Last Prisoner Project’s Executive Director, Sarah Gersten, said Congress’ current stance on cannabis is a threat to public safety.
“Despite this shift in public sentiment, Congress continues to undermine the will of the people you’ve been elected to represent,” Gersten wrote. “By continuing to endorse a policy that runs contrary to both public opinion and scientific consensus, Congress continues to enable the civic and economic disenfranchisement of millions of Americans.
“Further, your inaction on this issue threatens the health, safety, and security of all Americans – especially the over half a million people who will be arrested for simple marijuana possession this year.
“The evidence is overwhelming: our century-long, unduly punitive crusade has failed to curb problematic substance use. But where these policies have succeeded are in their needless entanglement of millions of Americans in our already-bloated criminal justice system, incurring tremendous human and financial costs.”
The group recently ran a study on the impact the current legislation around cannabis has on people across the US, claiming it does more to destroy these communities than it does to protect public safety.
The Criminal Injustice: Cannabis & The Rise of the Carceral State study found that supporting the MORE act would save the country’s police force a large amount of time and money.
As well as this it will eliminate millions of tasks for police officers, from stop-and-searches to the near 600,000 arrests which occur over cannabis every year.
It also highlighted that current laws contribute to the inequality seen in America regarding black communities, saying these groups are often targeted when it comes to enforcing these policies.
“The passage of the MORE Act is a critical first step in ending our costly and ineffective “War on Drugs” and empowering our nation’s health experts to advance an evidence-based, common-sense, public health-focused approach to American drug policy,” Gersten continued.
“A vote in favour of the MORE Act is a vote against fear-mongering, misinformation, and corrupt special interests. It’s a vote in favour of scientific fact.
“It’s a vote for liberty, justice, and equality under the law. It’s a vote that will work to uplift our communities and ensure the American dream is accessible to all.”
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