“Marijuana” Reform Groups Call on President Biden to Pardon Over 2,800 Federal Cannabis Prisoners, Not Turkeys.
WASHINGTON, DC — Pardoning turkeys before Thanksgiving has been an annual tradition at the White House since the Kennedy administration. This year DC Marijuana Justice (DCMJ), Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ), Virginia Marijuana Justice (VAMJ), and New York Marijuana Justice (NYMJ) call on President Biden to show some grace for the 2,800 people serving time in federal prison for cannabis “crimes” and pardon cannabis inmates instead of pardoning turkeys.
“There are people serving life sentences for cannabis, and we want the President to honor his commitment to release everyone in prison for cannabis now,” says Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ and proposer of Initiative 71, which legalized cannabis in the District of Columbia in 2014. “These prisoners should be freed and allowed to come home for the holidays.”
Very few Americans are federally charged with “simple possession of cannabis” and none were serving time when the executive order was announced. “Just like the annual turkey pardon is ceremonial, so was President Biden’s recent marijuana pardon announcement in October,” said Kris Furnish, co-founder of MDMJ.
“The turkeys that President Biden will pardon have names. So do the thousands of cannabis prisoners stuck in both federal and state jails.” says Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DCMJ and founder of NYMJ. “We call on the President to go one step further and pardon Americans for all cannabis offenses such as distribution and cultivation. It’s these prisoners who need President Biden’s pardon the most,” concludes Schiller.
Cannabis reform advocates, including members from the Marijuana Justice Groups, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Last Prisoner Project, gathered outside the White House last month to call on President Biden to do more but the administration has done nothing further. Advocates believe that President Biden’s performative inaction is condemnable because the majority of Americans agree that cannabis should be federally legal, and people are serving unjustly long sentences for nonviolent cannabis “offenses”.
“Pardoning turkeys instead of humans is offensive,” says RachelRamone Donlan, co-founder of VAMJ, who helped pass legalized cannabis in the Commonwealth. “There are thousands of human beings locked inside of cages, some serving life sentences for what is now legal, and it’s time for them to come home.”
The power of pardoning has been used since George Washington, and was originally intended to right a wrong. It’s not a joke to those that desperately hope President Biden will keep his promises.
“Although the American ceremony of pardoning turkeys is typically seen as a warm, lighthearted and well-loved, seasonal tradition, please remember families are missing their loved ones at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day because they are incarcerated, as our president mocks a power that could ultimately unite these families,” said Eidinger. “There is nothing that we want more than to see President Biden keep his promises so that families can reunite and be together on Thanksgiving Day and everyday.”
Last year, at the annual turkey pardon, President Biden made the following remark concerning COVID, however, it rings true for bringing cannabis prisoners home.
“In all seriousness, it’s important to continue traditions like this to remind us how from the darkness, there’s light and hope and progress and – that’s what this year’s Thanksgiving, in my view, represents. So many of us will be gathering with our loved ones for the first time in a long time. And we’ll be reconnecting with traditions, with our tables and our hearts full of grace and gratitude for everyone who made it possible.”
Unlike COVID, which we have very little power over, President Biden has full power to bring cannabis prisoners home.
Today’s announcement by President Biden is a seminal moment for cannabis reform in the United States. We applaud the White House for taking steps to undo the harms of the drug war for some people convicted of simple possession of cannabis.
However, we also call upon the President to do more. Very few Americans are federally charged with simple possession of cannabis and even fewer remain behind bars. In fact, there is no one currently in federal jail for simple cannabis possession. We call on the President to go one step further and pardon Americans convicted of other nonviolent cannabis offenses such as distribution and cultivation. It’s these prisoners who need President Biden’s pardon the most.
With respect to working with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice on rescheduling cannabis out of Schedule I, we call on the President to work with Congress to completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Moving cannabis to Schedule II, where it would join cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine, will still perpetuate the failed war on drugs and continue to allow adults to be arrested for possession, consumption, distribution, and cultivation. Simply put, we want cannabis to be entirely descheduled. As a natural plant, we believe cannabis should have never been placed in the CSA.
Earlier this week MDMJ, along with our sister chapters in DC, Virginia, and New York, had called upon President Biden to release 100 cannabis prisoners this month or we would join Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Last Prisoner Project in a series of demonstrations on October 24. This demonstration has not been canceled due to today’s announcement.
We are unaware of 100 cannabis prisoners being released at this time. Moreover, the demonstrations will continue to highlight the need for the White House to fully deschedule cannabis and the Democratic Party to take cannabis reform seriously. Like we seriously want Congress to pass full legalization and we seriously want to see the names of all cannabis prisoners who are being released. Today there are many cannabis growers and entrepreneurs who remain locked up because they were not charged with simple cannabis possession, but with cultivation and distribution. They used the plant to help feed their families and to help terminally-ill friends, and are considered heroes to many cannabis activists. They deserve pardons too.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 19, we are linking up with our sister groups for a special Zoom Sesh. Biden’s recent announcement will be one of our topics of discussion. Please put it on your calendar and join us!
WHO: Supporters of Releasing Cannabis Prisoners WHAT: DCMJ / MDMJ / VAMJ / NYMJ Zoom Sesh – Civil Disobedience Edition WHEN: 7pm EST, October 19, 2022 WHERE: Zoom (Click here to Register!) WHY: President Biden needs to uphold his campaign promise and immediately release at least 100 cannabis prisoners
Next month we are linking up with the Last Prisoner Project and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) to conduct a series of actions aimed at pressuring President Biden to release the nation’s federal cannabis prisoners. We are seeking cannabis activists who are ready, willing, and able to escalate pressure on the president until all our cannabis prisoners are home.
The demand is simple: “Follow through on your campaign promise to release all cannabis prisoners or we will remind the nation of your creation of the problem through disrupting politics as usual across the country.”
Unless President Biden takes action next month, we plan to engage in non-violent civil disobedience in multiple waves on Monday, October 24 outside the White House and the Democratic Party National Headquarters. We hope you will join us!
It’s been a while since we were all able to get together, and we miss you! We’ve got to get ready for next months rally in Annapolis! Join our December 710 Zoom Sesh 7:09pm on Wednesday, December 8, 2021.We’d love for you to join us!
To join the December 710 Zoom Sesh, please click here to register (required!). You can help spread the word by RSVPing on Facebook and inviting some of your friends. We will send out a reminder email with the Zoom link and passcode to everyone who registers about one hour before the 710 Zoom Sesh begins. Questions or suggested Agenda items? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout the rest of 2021 MDMJ is hosting monthly online gatherings. Our next Zoom Sesh is scheduled to commence at 7:10pm on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. We’d love for you to join us!
To join the September Zoom Sesh, please click here to register (required!). You can help spread the word by RSVPing on Facebook and inviting some of your friends. We will send out a reminder email with the Zoom link and passcode to everyone who registers about one hour before the 7:10 Zoom Sesh begins. Questions or suggested Agenda items? Please email email@example.com
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND — According to several public opinion polls conducted in recent years, a growing majority of Marylanders agree that providing adults access to cannabis under a regulated supply chain produces beHer public health and public safety outcomes than what we have in the unregulated legacy market.
A majority of legislators in the Maryland General Assembly also agree, but popular legalization proposals have failed to move forward.
“Our political institutions have failed us – we continue to have tens-of-thousands of racially biased possession arrests while the Assembly slow-walks reform,” said Luke Jones, Director of the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “The reality is even worse when we consider all the avoidable encounters between marijuana consumers and police that don’t lead to an arrest. The general public is fed up with this outrageously expensive, harmful, and racist marijuana prohibition policy,” he said.
Marijuana legalization advocates have promoted reform for more than forty years nationally and have been organized at the state level since popular Baltimore City Mayor Kurt Schmoke helped bring the drug war reform conversation to Maryland in the 1980’s. After years of trying traditional legislative reform efforts on behalf of cannabis consumers and their families, activists have decided to change tactics and are now taking their fight for reform directly to industry insiders who boycott organizers say have an outsized impact on public policy and are actively preventing essential, popular policy reforms.
“We are asking all medical cannabis patients in Maryland to not purchase Culta-brand products during the month of April because Culta owner Mackie Barch is using his wealth and political influence to delay the arrival of expanded personal freedom for the average citizen. Maryland law should protect citizens, not investors. Our laws should facilitate safe business practices, not establish artificial monopolies,” said Jones.
“Mackie Barch lives in one of the most affluent communities in the country and is represented in the General Assembly by Sen. Brian Feldman, a powerful member of the Senate, vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, personal friends with Senate President Bill Ferguson, member of the General Assembly’s marijuana legalization work group, and sponsor of Senate Bill 708, a bill drafted by Mackie Barch to help assure limited competition in Maryland’s adult use cannabis market,” said Kris Furnish, co- founder of Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ). “Political corruption, that’s what this is, plain and simple. The cannabis plant belongs to the people, and we should not face jail time if choose to grow our own cannabis instead of purchasing it from Mackie Barch,” she said.
Boycott organizers view current state law as clear evidence of a collusion between elected officials and medical cannabis business owners who curry financial and reputational influence on the legislative process at the expense of individual liberty and personal freedom. “Our laws should protect citizens and facilitate safe business practices, not establish artificial monopolies and compel consumers to purchase products they are perfectly capable of producing for themselves. We need the freedom to grow our own cannabis and to purchase products in a regulated market that has broad small business participation,” said Furnish.
“Mackie Barch is on the dole,” said Jones. “Mr. Barch has essentially admitted that Culta can’t survive without state-protected market access. He is the ring-leader and primary champion for the state licensed cannabis businesses seeking to maintain their state-sponsored monopoly status under the medical program and extend that favorable market position into the adult use market. Senate Bill 708 imposes statutory caps on the number of small businesses that can compete in the legal adult use cannabis market, and that approach is fundamentally unfair and un-American. Mackie Barch paid lobbyists like Vicente Sederberg LLC to develop that bill, and it shows how effective Mr. Barch has been at using his personal wealth and political connections to assure unfettered, state-protected access to marijuana consumers. It is protectionism, it is anti-American, and cannabis consumers won’t stand for it anymore,” said Jones.
Jones continued, “According to Maryland’s 2019 Uniform Crime Report, we had more than 15,000 marijuana possession arrests, all while the medical cannabis industry sells more than $46 million worth of marijuana products to consumers every month. This is evidence that our state policy is designed to serve the interests of industry investors who demand a return on their investments rather than serving the needs of Maryand citizens who live in constant fear of the police. Citizens don’t grow their own cannabis because they are afraid of their own government. Wealthy people like Mackie Barch who grow and sell marijuana receive special protections from the state, but consumers face jail time. Cannabis prohibition is bad public policy and it needs to end this year, not next year.”
Adults may legally buy and use marijuana in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Marijuana is also decriminalized in the District of Columbia.
Monday, March 22 is crossover, the last opportunity for the Maryland House of Delegates to move House Bill 32 to the Senate for consideration. Boycott organizers assert that the popular cannabis legalization proposal sponsored by Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s County) would become law if brought to the floor for a vote.
In a Last Ditch Effort to Demand Cannabis Legalization in Maryland, Patients and Activists Will Show Up To The State House With 51ft. Joint3/18/21
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Rally for marijuana legalization to feature the fifty-one foot inflatable joint.
Activists will rally at Lawyer’s Mall at 12:00 Noon on Thursday, March 18, 2021 in a last-ditch effort to legalize cannabis use and possession by adults before the Maryland General Assembly legislative session wraps up.
“The legislative process has failed us, so the people have to stand up and demand that our representatives protect our interests,” said veteran marijuana legalization advocate Luke Jones, Director of Maryland NORML – the prolific state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “We’ve been going to Annapolis year-after-year, with the same message, and they haven’t listened to us. We had more than 15,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2019 alone while the medical cannabis industry sells more than $45 million to consumers every month. Marijuana prohibition is bad public policy and it needs to end this year, not next year.”
Advocates are demanding an end to police encounters and arrests and the right for medical cannabis patients to cultivate cannabis at home for their own personal, non-commercial purposes.
“Being able to grow cannabis for myself not only allows me to save hundreds of dollars each month that I use for other essential expenses, but I love the feeling of being completely self-reliant and in control of my medicine and the process in which it’s grown,” said Kris Furnish, co-founder of Maryland Marijuana Justice, (MDMJ) and former resident of Salisbury who moved to Washington, DC, in order to legally grow her own medical cannabis.
“I’ve been living in DC now for almost a year and during that time I’ve not had to spend one dollar at a dispensary. I do not cultivate cannabis to make untaxed profits, I cultivate cannabis for my own personal use. I take pride in the fact that I don’t spray chemicals on my cannabis and that I’m using natural sunlight instead of negatively contributing to our carbon footprint,” Furnish added.
Fiftyone-foot inflatable joint
According to the March 2021 Goucher College public opinion poll, 66% of Marylanders support legalizing recreational cannabis – with a whopping 77% of Democratic Party voters supporting the policy.
In a dramatic effort to bring attention to the urgency of the issue from the standpoint of the cannabis consumer, rally organizers say they will bring a 50-foot inflatable joint to the rally and march with it down Bladen Street.
“Policy makers tend to make consumers a silent part of the equation – a part of the formula that’s already figured out. They focus on the regulators, the license holders, the investors, and the bankers, and accommodate everyone’s interests, meanwhile, there’s a parent right over here who can’t see her children because the cops came in and found a bong sitting on the table, so she lost her job behind some stupid criminal justice charge. This is something that can’t wait until next year – they have to take care of this now,” said Jones.
“We have people – the police come right through their front door, they find a bong on the coffee table. Can you imagine that life? I’m not running from the police in my affluent neighborhood, but poor people are actually running from the police because of cannabis. We have more than 15,000 arrests each year for marijuana possession alone – and that’s not counting the encounters. We demand freedom from fear – that’s part of the reparations. I hope people can understand that. We deserve it. We’ve been living with the pressure and stigma for too long, and we don’t want to wait another year. We don’t want to have another 15,000 potential George Floyd incidents,” he said.
“Some legislators won’t like seeing the big fiftyone-foot joint, I guess because they like to pretend that people don’t actually use marijuana. We’re saying – we are past that point now. Cannabis consumers are obviously here, and are obviously going to fuel the tax revenue legislators are so excited about, so we might as well call it what it is. It’s a joint – legalize it for goodness’ sake already!” he said.
“We are coming to Annapolis with a fiftyone-foot inflatable joint. There’s nothing wrong with it, and if it makes people feel uncomfortable, what do they think they are legislating for? This is the same joint they had thousands and thousands of years ago, and it’s the same joint they sell in the dispensaries in Maryland right now, and it’s the same joint we will have under a responsible, regulated adult-use market,” said Furnish.
“We are not going to arrest people this summer, then turn around and figure out how to pay to expunge the arrest records next summer – we are not that stupid. We need to stop arresting people this legislative session, and that also means ending the encounters – cannabis consumers don’t want to answer intrusive questions from the police,” said Jones. “This policy ruins people’s lives.”
Marijuana is legal for adults to buy and use in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Marijuana is also decriminalized in the District of Columbia.
March 22 is crossover, the last opportunity for the Maryland House of Delegates to send the Senate House Bill 32, a popular cannabis legalization proposal sponsored by Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s County).