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Marking the one-year anniversary of President Biden’s call for cannabis expungements, cannabis advocacy group the Last Prisoner Project, which works to free people from prison who have been incarcerated on cannabis charges, has released its State of Cannabis Justice.
Exploring cannabis justice action on a state-by-state basis through the investigation of record clearance and resentencing, Last Prisoner Project’s State of Cannabis Justice Report calls for further action on cannabis justice in the US.
In a public comment, Steve DeAngelo, Founder of the Last Prisoner Project, commented: “Justice is not achieved through mere legalisation alone but by undoing the harms caused by cannabis prohibition.
“The State of Cannabis Justice Report analyses each state’s commitment to delivering retroactive relief by assessing the status of record clearance and resentencing and executive actions such as pardons.”
Cannabis justice in the US
In October 2022, President Biden made a presidential proclamation pardoning federal convictions for people charged with simple cannabis possession offenses. Since then, states across the US have been working to clear convictions.
The report explores these efforts
The Last Prisoner Project writes: “…since 2018, 100% of the 13 states that have legalised cannabis have included record clearance policies and since 2021, they have all been state-initiated.
“While resentencing policies have been slower to take hold, they are also growing in importance and have been included in more than half of the legalisation bills since 2020. The increasing inclusion of these policies speaks to the importance of providing relief for individuals harmed by the historically unjust War on Drugs.
“Unfortunately, the report also shows that, despite the country’s progress in the breadth and depth of cannabis justice policy, we are still far behind. While more and more states are working to include retroactive relief for cannabis-related offenses, the policy lags behind in every single state.”
For example, the report highlights that while the deadline for record clearances in California passed on 1 July, 2023, over 20,000 individuals have still not had their records cleared.
Additionally, the report notes that while strong statutory language has been introduced across a number of states, “implementation struggles make it clear that statutory language is only a start to effective change.”
A Cannabis Justice Score Card is included in the report, which grades states from A to F on their cannabis justice policies, with A being the highest grade. At the top of the card are California, Minnesota and New Mexico, while Iowa, Idaho and Wisconsin sit at the bottom of the card.
However, Last Prisoner Project notes that the report this report does not consider implementation in the grading “because state reporting is incredibly varied, making it a skewed metric that would unfairly work against states that report data more rigorously.”
Therefore, some of the lower-ranked states on the card have implemented more relief than some of the higher ranked states.
“…this report does not serve to broadly rank the status of cannabis justice on a state-by-state basis, but rather, the language of cannabis justice policy.” says the report.
The report reads: “…millions of individuals still bear the life-long burden of having a cannabis record, and tens of thousands are actively serving carceral sentences for cannabis-related convictions.
“This leaves a fundamental injustice as states allow a cannabis market to flourish on one side of prison walls and a cannabis prisoner to languish on the other.
“In order to address these harms of cannabis criminalisation, legalisation programmes must provide retroactive relief for individuals through state-initiated record clearance and resentencing.”
To read the full report, please visit: https://www.lastprisonerproject.org/state-of-cannabis-justice-report